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Sparkwing solar panels from Airbus DS NL to power lunar mission of Masten

Sparkwing solar panels from Airbus DS NL to power lunar mission of Masten Sparkwing, the off-the-shelf solar panels for small satellites developed by Airbus DS NL, has been selected by USA-based Masten Space Systems for their XL-1 lunar lander. In 2023, the XL-1 spacecraft will land at the lunar South Pole as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program. XL-1 will be equipped with six body-mounted Sparkwing solar panels, to be delivered next year, to charge the vehicle’s power system during transition to the Moon as well as during operations on the Moon’s surface. The Sparkwing solar panels from Airbus DS NL are the world’s first commercially available off-the-shelf option for small spacecraft. Plugging 3D models of standard Sparkwing components into the spacecraft design allowed for a speedy evaluation on where to place items and where it would need customization to meet the specific needs of Masten Mission 1. This led to a XL-1 specific design derivative of the Sparkwing catalogue product, with increased panel sizing and cut-outs on both long edges of the panel to accommodate the landing legs of the spacecraft. Each solar panel has 320 solar cells, with 3G30 space-grade solar cells provided by Azur Space. Building on over fifty years of experience in developing solar arrays, Airbus uses a “mix and match” approach of combining standard components with specific adaptations where needed for the Sparkwing solar panels.

Next steps European Robotic Arm

On September 21, exactly two months after the successful launch of the Airbus-built European Robotic Arm (ERA), ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet and his Russian colleagues attempted to switch on ERA to test if all systems are functioning. This effort was partly successful: due to faults in the data bus connection between the central computer of the Russian Segment and Multipurpose Laboratory Module Nauka (with ERA), the arm itself could not be operated. The control panels of ERA have been successfully tested by connecting them directly to the central computer. RSC Energia, the Russian aerospace manufacturer of Nauka, is investigating the malfunctions and the measures to be taken. If the data bus is operational, the In-Orbit Commissioning test programme of ERA will be completed, which is expected to take place by the end of the year.

The first moves with the European Robotic Arm are planned in January and February 2022. It will take five spacewalks to get the robotic arm fit for space operations. ERA’s first tasks in orbit are to set up the airlock and install a large radiator for the Multipurpose Laboratory Module, also called ‘Nauka’.

Interview with the team involved in the BRIK-II satellite

BRIK II, the first military nanosatellite of the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF), built by ISISPACE, was successfully launched last week onboard Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne vehicle. The launch vehicle was carried by a modified Boeing 747 called Cosmic Girl and released at 7:47 AM (PT) over the Pacific Ocean. ISISPACE has been a major stakeholder in this project, acting as the platform and ground segment designer, integrator and responsible for the launch arrangements and the platform commissioning. Curious to learn some insights about this mission from the team members? Check out the interviews below from some of the ISISPACE team members that have been working on this project:

When did you start working on the Brik-II project?

Ivan: Since I joined ISISPACE in March 2019 the BRIK-II project was given to me. I started the project as a Radio Frequency Systems Engineer.

Coen: I joined the team in January 2019.

Hong Yang: The project started back in November 2017, as an ambitious project to put the RNLAF and the Dutch Industry on the map as a Space Force. I took over the management in January 2019 from my colleague. As you already see the team changed around that point.

What were the major concerns over the project?

Ivan: The development and test of a new radio frontend for a military frequency band was a bit of a challenge. And also, the 6U satellite with 3 different payloads was the most complex project for me at ISISPACE. Mostly because of the Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) of the subsystems. It took some time to resolve all the problems. A lot of creativity was required to solve issues that we were facing during the AIT (Assembly, Integration and Testing) phase and EMC testing campaign.

In the end, all the issues were successfully mitigated, and we’ve got a lot of lessons learnt for other projects as well.

Coen: The deadlines were challenging.

Hong Yang: From the start the project had ambition. The parties worked hard together to bring the payloads and platform together. However, like with many of the technology demonstrator projects, interface management was of utmost importance and challenging. The COVID-19 situation made the interface discussions a lot more difficult, blocking parties to work hands-on on the satellite during the period that everything came together for the first time.

How would you classify this project over your career?

Ivan: As I mentioned before, the BRIK-II was the most challenging and complex project for me. Very happy to be part of this mission.

Coen: Incredible experience and I was able to apply almost everything I’ve learned throughout the years and other jobs

Hong Yang: A career-boosting project. The challenging nature, the scope of the project and the complexity of the relationship management is something special. It is bringing a space system from A to Z. And how great is it to also have it launched on the Virgin Orbit LauncherOne Everyone watched with awe at this spectacular journey.

How would you describe all this experience in a few words?

Ivan: Exciting, challenging and groundbreaking. I am very proud of our teamwork and very good collaboration with RNLAF and payload providers.

Coen: Simply awesome and something to never forget. Proud. I was able to partially build and test the satellite and integrate it onto Virgin Orbit’s rocket. So, I got the whole package. Which is incredible.

Hong Yang: In one word: UNIQUE. While sometimes, mind breaking the result is what counts: great teamwork, solving complex issues, paving the road for the next missions.

Last Wednesday, the 30th of June, was a historical moment for the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF): the BRIK-II, the first Dutch military nanosatellite, built by ISISPACE, was successfully launched onboard Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne vehicle. The launch vehicle was carried by a modified Boeing 747 called Cosmic Girl and released at 7:47 AM (PT) over the Pacific Ocean.

BRIK-II is a technology demonstrator in answer to the investments in the space program of the Dutch Defense, essential to the future safety and security of Dutch society, as described in the Defense Vision 2035. The BRIK II-is the first satellite of RNLAF to demonstrate the potential of nanosatellite technology for military and civil use cases.

ISISPACE has been a major stakeholder in this project, acting as the platform and ground segment designer, integrator and responsible for the launch arrangements and the platform commissioning. The satellite hosts three demonstration payloads. The first one is a store and forward radio, developed by the RNLAF 982SQN, allowing the forces to send secure messages via the satellite. The scintillation monitor, developed by the University of Oslo (UiO) measures ionosphere scintillation, enabling the RNLAF to analyze and determine whether interferences in the GPS and other communication are due to natural events, or by potential adversaries. The third payload is the ESM sensor, developed by the NLR, which allows the RNLAF to detect and analyze the use of radio signals. The Delft University of Technology was involved in the project as an adviser to the RNLAF.

First signals for BRIK-II were received the same day, confirming strong health and excellent communication conditions with the satellite. Within a day, the team was able to start the commissioning of the first systems, which will be continued in the coming week. It is expected that the satellite will be ready for payload commissioning before the end of the month.

In 1913 Marinus van Meel built ‘The BRIK’ which was the first aircraft for the ‘Luchtvaartafdeeling’ (nowadays known as Royal Netherlands Air Force) in Soesterberg. To commemorate his pioneering spirit, the first nanosatellite gets the honourable name of BRIK-II. Would you like to know more about the historical “BRIK”? Check out the video: https://youtu.be/4Frou4wSJUc

Lens R&D has made some major steps forward - 6 Bison64-ET-B flight units

Lens R&D has made some major steps forward recently with the delivery of 6 BiSon64-ET-B flight units for the SSTL Lunar Pathfinder mission.

The sensors ordered by CNES to be used on the MMX rover (going to Phobos, one of the moons of Mars) have been tested completely and are awaiting final calibration and DRB.

A series of 100 MAUS cubesat Sunsenors is under production and the first units have already been assembled and are awaiting final calibration before delivery to ISISpace.

These are the first units assembled using the new radiation hardened photodiodes that have been designed for Lens R&D.

The new diodes have been qualification tested up to 8E14 1MeV electrons (equivalent to 19.2Mrad TID and 25 MeV/g TNID) next to passing a 1000h HALT test at +125°C

As a consequence the diodes are now fully qualified according to ESA standards and acceptable for ESA projects.

In order to be able to use the sensors as coarse sensors as well (as foreseen on the Proba-3 satellite for a number of units) it has been agreed to perform temperature coefficient measurements on several units so as to increase the knowledge about these devices beyond what is needed for nominal operation.

Last but not least, Lens R&D is 3rd place winner of the ESA Global Space Markets Challenge and will therefore be present at the IAC in Dubai.

ESA - ESA announces winners of the Global Space Markets Challenge

Dawn Aerospace completes first flights of Mk-II suborbital spaceplane

Dawn Aerospace, a New Zealand-Dutch space transportation company, has conducted five flights of the company’s Mk-II Aurora suborbital spaceplane. The flights were to assess the airframe and avionics of the vehicle, and were conducted using surrogate jet engines. 

The campaign was run from Glentanner Aerodrome in New Zealand’s South Island. Taxi testing commenced in early July and five flights occurred between the 28th and 30th of July, reaching altitudes of 3,400 feet.

Dawn is creating reusable and sustainable space technologies – suborbital and orbital rocket-powered planes – that operate much like a fleet of aircraft, taking off and landing horizontally at airports.

Mk-II is a suborbital plane designed to fly 100 km above the Earth, and aims to be the first vehicle to access space multiple times per day. The vehicle serves as a technology demonstrator for the two-stage-to-orbit-vehicle, the Mk-III. Mk-II will also be used to capture atmospheric data used for weather and climate modelling, and to conduct scientific research and technology demonstrations.

“Dawn are focussed on sustainable and scalable access to space and our Mk-II vehicle is entirely reusable,” said Stefan Powell, CEO. “The team have successfully captured extensive data enabling further R&D on the capability of Mk-II. I’m hugely proud of our engineering team for designing and building a vehicle that flies beautifully first time and just as predicted. We are delighted with the results and demonstrating rapid turnaround – we conducted five flights within three days, and two flights occurred within ninety minutes of each other.”

On December 9 2020, Dawn announced the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had granted Dawn a certificate to fly Mk-II Aurora spaceplane from a conventional airport without exclusive airspace restrictions.

“We were successful in demonstrating our ability to integrate with other airspace operators,” said Powell. “Fixed-wing aircraft and local helicopter companies continued their operations unaffected. It’s fantastic being part of the Glentanner Aerodrome community.”

Dawn tests various vehicles and systems in a number of locations across New Zealand’s South Island, and has agreements in place with a number of potential launch locations globally – the view is to one-day emulate the aviation-industry’s model and, in doing so, provide unprecedented access to space; operating globally with key hubs across the world.

“Viewing opportunities will be publicly notified in future, but for now we’re allowing our operational team to focus on the important task at hand,” said Powell.

Initial testing was conducted using surrogate jet engines. The Mk-II will be fitted with a rocket engine which is already in the later stages of testing. This will unlock higher performance for supersonic and high-altitude testing of the vehicle.