OrbAstro is hard at work creating downstream dreams

OrbAstro, which is a space-as-a-service company with plans to launch a network of “tiny satellites” in 2022, is getting ready to deploy its first half-dozen smallsats. OrbAstro claims it has 5 commercial satellites and a pilot satellite for the in-house project scheduled to deploy next year, with a January deployment in India, spots designated on impending SpaceX rideshare operations, and a launch contract with an unrevealed third provider. In the following months, the United Kingdom and New Zealand-centered business intends to add 1 or 2 more missions to the 2022 schedule.

OrbAstro has collected deposits for 12 more satellites set to launch in 2023-2024, according to the company. In an interview this week, OrbAstro co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Ash Dove-Jay said, “Many of these are pilot missions for huge nanosat [and] microsat constellations.” The 12-person firm, which was established in 2018 by 2 of the 3 original Oxford Space Systems employees, announced on September 23 that it had signed a contract with Aliena PTE Ltd., which is a Singapore-centered satellite propulsion provider, to fly the all-electric attitude as well as orbit control system onboard the OrbAstro’s first microsatellite, which will deploy one year from now.

OrbAstro has for a while now been renting space on a sprawling research park close to Oxford University to develop and assess cubesat-based nanosatellites, similar to Oxford Space Systems, which is a deployable antenna as well as space structures firm that assisted put the Harwell Space Cluster of United Kingdom’s on the map.

Dove-Jay, as well as his two co-founders, head of the electronics Kalhana Colombage and CTO Vinoth Gurusamy, have kept a low profile even as they build, test, and sell cubesat-centered smallsat subsystems and nanosatellites designed in-house to bootstrap their space-as-a-service venture.

OrbAstro has a site that describes their satellite and subsystem services, but it does not include information on the company’s clients, leadership, or address. Supporters include the European Space Agency, the UK Space Agency, Innovate UK, and ESA Business Incubator Centre UK. “We were able to acquire almost 4 million pounds in space agency and government grants and agreements, as well as some personal investment,” Dove-Jay said. “It enabled us to work silently in shadows for a long until we got to this point.”

According to Dove-Jay, they are now in a position to begin revealing several of the commercial deals they’ve been working on. OrbAstro’s clients are a “mix” of “one-off academic payloads” and commercial ventures “looking to get the flight heritage on their subsystems” or “piloting a service utilizing our platforms,” according to Dove-Jay.

The recently disclosed contract with Aliena plans for the propulsion company’s technology to be launched on the ORB-12 microsatellite (called after the scale of a stack of 12 cubesats, each spanning 10 centimeters on the side) in September 2022. OrbAstro, as per Dove-Jay, is not free to reveal the launch provider it has lined up for ORB-12’s first flight.

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