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Laser Communication for Small Satellites

The first half year of 2021 was clearly marked by the topic of Laser Communication for Hyperion. We started 2021 with the announcement of a secured technology demonstration onboard the Norsat-TD mission. This was made possible thanks to the ESA Scylight Programme and the continued collaboration with our technology partner TNO.

Laser satellite communication is becoming more and more relevant for the commercial market. Our solution, CubeCAT, is one of the few which was highlighted in a recent NSR market trend report. In a dedicated podcast hosted by satsearch, Hyperion was interviewed to elaborate on the technology and its use cases. And our recent participation in the ESA CubeSat Industry Days allowed us to interact with interested delegates, to present our approach and findings.

Hyperion is also active in the ground segment of the laser satellite communication: Its Gigabit Detector is a key piece of technology in Optical Ground Stations to convert the laser beam into a digital bitstream. Thanks to a Memorandum of Understanding signed with Celestia STS, we will investigate on how to integrate the Detector into Celestia’s Optical Modem.

Key CubeSat subsystems leading the way

It has been a good start into 2021 for Hyperion Technologies. Until May 2021, Hyperion had already received a record €0.5milion of orders for the company’s popular Star Trackers. Hyperion continues to celebrate wins with its heritage product, that are rapidly emerging as a de facto standard for European small satellites.

In addition, we can also claim great interest in our space-qualified propulsion technology: The PM200, a co-development between Hyperion and Dutch company Dawn Aerospace, was recently featured in a satsearch market overview webinar, which can be rewatched here. The webinar was of particular interest for first-time users of propulsion technology in CubeSats, and we are very happy about the attendance as well as the amount of good questions we received.

Inspiring the next generation

It is close to our hearts to ensure that students, graduates and young professionals gain relevant exposure to real space hardware and benefit from our experience. This is why Hyperion has engaged in two occasions to connect to young people and provide our support.

In May, the Space Generation Advisory Council hosted its European Space Generation Workshop online. Hyperion was one of the sponsors of the event and contributed to the programme with a keynote and a challenging puzzle: Those who made it through, had the chance to win an exclusive 1:1 mentorship opportunity with Hyperion’s Managing Director Bert Monna. In total, we received 15 applications, and found our winner!

Another project we are supporting is the VSV “Leonardo da Vinci” Satellite mission. This mission is made by students of the TU Delft with the goal to inspire and engage the youth on the importance of space travel and technology. Hyperion is sponsoring an integrated Attitude Control System (iACS200) with sun sensors, as well as a payload processor, the CP400.85, for the mission. Thanks to the iACS200, the satellite will have the capability to determine and change its orientation in space and point the instrument towards the desired area of interest. We are delighted to be involved in such a project, whilst our products gain more flight heritage the project will also increase the visibility of the Netherlands space activities.

Aerosol instrument SPEXone prepares for NASA mission PACE

Building, testing, calibrating and transporting an instrument to NASA during a pandemic was quite a challenge in the past six months. However, the joint team of SRON and Airbus DS NL managed to complete the job. In February the final inspection of the space instrument took place under the watchful eye of Minister van Engelshoven (OCW) and NASA. The inspection concluded an intensive test and calibration programme in the Netherlands and gave the green light for the transport of SPEXone to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. There, the next successful calibration of SPEXone took place.

In 2022, the instrument will be installed on NASA's climate satellite. From 2023, SPEXone will fly on the NASA PACE mission, which will help scientists to solve climate issues. SPEXone was specifically developed to unravel the influence of aerosols on the climate.

Aerosols are small particles like soot, ash and desert dust in our atmosphere. They have a major influence on climate change and air pollution, but their exact role is insufficiently known. As a result, climate warming scenarios for the year 2100 are as much as two degrees Celsius apart. Most aerosols reflect light and therefore have a cooling effect on the earth. However, they can also have a warming effect through absorption. SPEXone will determine the properties of aerosols, such as their size, composition, shape and their absorbing and reflecting power.

About SPEXone

SPEXone is a compact, optical satellite instrument that will characterize aerosols from low-Earth orbit. It is part of NASA's PACE satellite (launch 2023). SPEXone is being developed by a Dutch consortium consisting of space research institute SRON and Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands, supported by opto-mechanical experts from TNO. SRON and Airbus DS NL are responsible for the design, construction and testing of the instrument. The scientific leadership is in the hands of SRON. The SPEX measurement principle was developed by Frans Snik and Christoph Keller at Leiden University. SPEXone is a public-private initiative that has been made possible by the NSO with funds provided by OCW and by SRON-NWO with support from Airbus DS NL.

Sparkwing solar panels selected for Aerospacelab's first Very High Resolution (VHR) satellite

Sparkwing has been selected by Belgian new space company Aerospacelab for the first satellite of their Very High Resolution (VHR) constellation, which will perform earth observation tasks from space. The selection of Sparkwing for their first VHR mission makes Aerospacelab the so-called 'launching customer' of the new turnkey solar arrays for small satellites. The delivery of the solar arrays is expected to take place in January 2022.

Aerospacelab selected the 1070x570 mm single-deployable solar array configuration from the Sparkwing catalogue. The delivery will include a set of two solar arrays for the first flight model, as well as a structure for system-level testing. Like all Sparkwing models, the solar panels consist of substrates fitted with photovoltaic cells (PVA), and mechanisms to keep the wings in the folded state and to unfold them when in space.

"Sparkwing's solution fits with our mission to design and manufacture high-quality, innovative and affordable ESPA-class satellites. Last but not least, Aerospacelab and Sparkwing share the same pragmatic approach to new space mission development, which makes for a smooth collaboration. We are looking forward to this mission and are happy to play a part in Sparkwing's success." says Benoit Deper, CEO and founder of Aerospacelab.

"Our Sparkwing portfolio focuses on the 'new space' domain, but meanwhile boasts forty years of experience in developing solar arrays for international space missions. So the best of both worlds. Aerospacelab's openness to a commercial, off-the-shelf product confirms that our approach to standardising solar arrays is in line with what the smallsat industry is looking for. We are delighted to contribute to Aerospacelab's journey to make the VHR constellation a success," said Rob Postma, who took over as Chief Executive Officer of Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands in February this year.

Sparkwing ( is the world's first commercially available, off-the-shelf solar array for small satellites. The product is optimised for low-Earth orbit missions requiring power between 100W and 2000W. The Sparkwing catalogue offers over thirty different panel sizes, which can be configured into wings with one, two or three panels folding out. Sparkwing is a product developed by Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands, with support from the Netherlands Space Office and ESA.


Joining forces for National Growth Fund: satellite data for net-zero emissions

With the submission of the Growth Plan "On course to net-zero emissions in 2050 with satellite data", Dutch public and private parties are joining forces to measure the emission of greenhouse gases, nitrogen and air pollution at source level from space with an emission monitoring system. In this way, harmful emissions can be tackled independently at the core.

Reducing emissions is currently very difficult because our knowledge of these harmful emissions is mainly based on estimates and not on measurements. With the deployment of an emission monitoring system, the proposed public-private partnership offers a solution to this problem. Thanks to the resulting reduction, the Netherlands not only makes a crucial contribution to the pressing global challenges in the areas of climate change, health and biodiversity; the effect on the national economy is also positive. To meet the Paris climate targets, there is no time to lose and we must start immediately.

Economic benefits of this initiative are both direct, through the sale of the data products and information services by the private parties, and indirect, through the increase in earning power of customers and the decrease in the resulting socio-economic costs. These benefits, both indirect and direct, contribute to strengthening the Dutch economy. The earning capacity will grow along with global policy and legislation and pricing of emissions.

The Dutch sector can fulfil this promise by applying its unique knowledge and expertise in the field of atmosphere monitoring to the emerging market for data products and information services. This will require strengthening and expanding the position that the existing ecosystem has built up over the past thirty years, stimulating the market-oriented use of existing and future emission data and jointly bearing the initial risk investments with a long payback period in the new measurement system.

This ambition has been further articulated and endorsed by the following Dutch potential customers, companies and knowledge institutions: Netherlands Emission Authority, Centraal Bureau Statistiek, Arcadis, Bureau Veritas, Rabobank, Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands, ISISpace, cosine, NEO, S[&]T, OrbitalEye, TriOpSys, Cuurios, SRON, TNO, KNMI, TU Delft, VU Amsterdam and WUR.

If you are interested in participating in this initiative, please contact Wencke van der Meulen (Dit e-mailadres wordt beveiligd tegen spambots. JavaScript dient ingeschakeld te zijn om het te bekijken.) and Jeroen Rotteveel (Dit e-mailadres wordt beveiligd tegen spambots. JavaScript dient ingeschakeld te zijn om het te bekijken.).

European Robotic Arm ready for launch

With the installation of ESA's European Robotic Arm (ERA) on the Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM), a team from Airbus DS NL has completed the final activities for the launch of the robotic arm. ERA was joined to its home base, the MLM 'Nauka', in mid-May. ERA and two control stations will be launched together with Nauka from the Cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, by a Proton rocket at the end of June.

The 11-metre-long robotic arm can move independently, 'walking', as it were, hand-in-hand around the outer perimeter of the ISS via fixed points. Cosmonauts/astronauts can control the robot both from inside and outside the space station. ERA will take over routine but tiring and potentially dangerous tasks outside the space station from the ISS crew.

The long awaited launch of the European robotic arm to the International Space Station (ISS) marks the major contribution of the Netherlands to the continuation of the ISS, made possible thanks to support from the Netherlands Space Office and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Change.

ERA was developed for ESA by a European consortium led by Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands. Airbus DS NL designed the arm and its software functions, took care of the development of subsystems throughout Europe and integrated and tested the system. Stork supplied the electronics and drives for the joints of the arm. TNO developed the test equipment for the zero-gravity test facility. The ground segment, tools for training and mission preparation were developed by NLR.