LizzieSat-1 could be launched without thrusters by Sidus Space if it can’t get safety clearances in time to deploy its first satellite from the International Space Station early next year.

It is unclear if Sidus can get all NASA approvals to add operational-life-extending thrusters to LizzieSat-1 for a cargo trip to the ISS in February, Sidus chief mission operations officer John Curry said Aug. 8 during the Small Satellite Conference here.

“It’s possible we may end up deciding not to fly the thruster,” Curry said Aug. 8 during the Small Satellite Conference here, so that it can “just get through the safety process and go ahead and fly.

“It’s not that we can’t get past that, but it takes a long time.”

LizzieSat-1 was previously slated to launch on a mission to the ISS in October before NASA re-manifested it to February.

While Sidus still plans to launch LizzieSat-1 from the ISS, the company’s flexible deployment capabilities also enable it to leverage rideshare opportunities.

LizzieSat-1 is the first of 100 satellites Sidus is planning for a constellation that would initially provide in-orbit testing services.

The 100-kilogram spacecraft had been set to use a deployer on the ISS that Sidus manages as part of its existing government contractor business.

If deployed from the ISS without thrusters, Curry said LizzieSat-1 would only provide services for around 130-200 days before losing operational altitude. 

While that would still be enough time to demonstrate core technology, he said its satellites with thrusters could last 18 months to three years, depending on mission requirements. 

LizzieSat-1’s customers include NASA and Mission Helios, a financial services startup that aims to test technology for NFTs.

Curry said that these and other future customers don’t care about the length of time they spend on orbit, and a LizzieSat without thrusters has more room for payloads.

However, a LizzieSat with thrusters is the standard design for the company’s constellation and would enable more control over the satellite’s de-orbit trajectory.

While a rideshare launch would likely come after the Feb. 19 ISS Cargo mission Sidus is currently targeting, getting to LEO on a rocket would likely deliver the satellite to orbit faster than via the ISS, where Curry said it would take astronauts 30-60 days to deploy the spacecraft once it arrived on the station.

For an ISS launch, he said NASA also requires delivery of a “fully outfitted” satellite 10 and a half weeks before launch, compared to four weeks for a rideshare mission.

That means using rideshare providers for future satellites would give customers more time to provide the payloads they want to test on LizzieSat satellites. It would also guard against the possibility of supply chain delays.

Sidus is negotiating with “a number of different providers” for launching other LizzieSats later in 2023.

L3Harris has selected Maxar Technologies to supply 14 satellite buses and provide support services as a subcontractor to them.

Maxar Technologies announced earlier this month that it was selected by L3Harris to manufacture 14 missile-detection satellites for the U.S. Space Development Agency.

DoD’s space agency last month announced it awarded L3Harris Technologies and Northrop Grumman contracts to each build 14 missile-tracking satellites for a low Earth orbit constellation known as the Tracking Layer Tranche 1.  L3Harris won a $700 million contract.

The 28 infrared-sensing satellites will be part of a global network of eyes in the sky the Pentagon will use to detect and track the latest generation of ballistic and hypersonic missiles being developed by countries like Russia and China. 

“This is a big win,” Maxar CEO Daniel Jablonsky said during a second-quarter earnings call. He called the agreement with L3Harris a validation of Maxar’s strategy to pursue national security satellite contracts to diversify its mostly commercial-only business.

Maxar will supply satellite buses and provide support services as a subcontractor to L3Harris. The company did not disclose the value of the contract. Jablonsky said it’s a fixed-price deal for Maxar’s new “workhorse PLEO” bus, designed for proliferated low Earth orbit constellations and based on an earlier design the company bid for the Telesat constellation.

The contract with L3Harris also covers the integration of mission payloads, including optical terminals for mesh networking, Ka-band communications and infrared sensors. Maxar will manufacture the buses at its factories in Palo Alto and San Jose, California, for delivery in 2024. Launches are scheduled to begin in April 2025.

“This program demonstrates that Maxar is primed to handle a diverse set of missions,” said Chris Johnson, Maxar senior vice president and general manager of space. 

Rob Mitrevski, vice president and general manager of spectral solutions at L3Harris, said the company considered the Maxar platform a good fit for SDA’s Tracking Layer. “Developing and manufacturing commoditized, commercially available spacecraft for the national defense space architecture is key for the Space Development Agency.”

Italy’s D-Orbit mentioned on Aug. 9th that it would launch 20 nanosatellites over three years for Swiss startup Astrocast with its orbital transfer vehicle.

The first mission under their agreement is slated for no sooner than November 2022 on a SpaceX Falcon 9, which will launch D-Orbit’s ION Satellite Carrier with four Astrocast satellites onboard.

Each satellite in this batch is 3U, or the size of three cubesats, and will be dropped off at a 500-600-kilometer sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) to improve coverage for Astrocast’s internet of things (IoT) constellation.

D-Orbit plans to launch another batch of six 6U satellites for Astrocast in 2023 and 10 more in 2024 to complete the launch agreement.

Astrocast currently has 12 3U satellites, including two test spacecraft, and aims to expand its network to 20 satellites before the end of 2022. 

In addition to D-Orbit, Astrocast chief financial officer Kjell Karlsen said the Swiss operator also has launch agreements with U.S. rideshare provider Spaceflight this year.

Astrocast plans to grow the constellation to 40 satellites in 2023 and to operate 100 of them by 2025.

To help fund this expansion, Astrocast — which already trades as a public company on Norway’s Euronext Growth Oslo stock market — is looking to raise 60-80 million euros ($64-86 million) by listing shares on the Euronext Growth Paris junior stock market.

The company had been preparing to complete this offering of shares this summer, but “global market conditions prevented it,” Karlsen said. “We are now working with our advisers to determine the right window for the offering,” he added.

In May, Astrocast said it plans to issue new shares to buy Dutch connectivity solutions provider Hiber, which agreed to invest around $11 million in Astrocast’s second stock market as part of the acquisition. Karlsen said that the acquisition is contingent on Astrocast’s secondary stock market listing in France, “but we have full confidence that we will meet it and close during 2022.”

Fabien Jordan, Astrocast’s CEO, said in a statement: “It is important for European space companies to work together to find solutions that increase the competitiveness of European space, and we believe that working with D-Orbit enables this for Astrocast,” Astrocast CEO and co-founder Fabien Jordan said.

Following the launch with D-Orbit via U.S.-based SpaceX, Jordan said Astrocast is looking forward to “potential future missions on European rockets.”

Blue Canyon Technologies have won its largest constellation order to date, a contract with Tomorrow.io which is a weather technology company.

Based on a contract announced on Aug. 9th, Blue Canyon, a Raytheon subsidiary, will provide products and services for 18 Tomorrow.io cubesats with microwave sounders. In addition to providing cubesat buses and payloads elements, Blue Canyon will support payload integration, conduct space vehicle testing and handle pre-launch mission operations services.

“Our cubesat and components teams are looking forward to building at a larger scale, in a new facility, with improved payload interfaces and standardized designs,” John Carvo, Blue Canyon executive director of cubesats, said in a statement. “Raytheon Technologies’ continued investment has allowed us to increase inventory and acquire new testing equipment and facilities, so we can continue providing innovative products and the agility to move quickly to ensure rapid delivery to our customers.”

Tomorrow.io plans to begin gathering radar and microwave observations to feed weather models by the end of 2024. Tomorrow.io has not yet disclosed the manufacturer for its 200-kilogram radar satellites.

“We chose Blue Canyon Technologies due to their proven experience in delivering a complex small-sat sounder to orbit with the TROPICS mission, and their ability to scale and help us meet market demand,” Rei Goffer, Tomorrow.io co-founder and chief strategy officer, told SpaceNews by email. “Together with our radar satellites and our weather intelligence platform, it will allow us to continue revolutionizing global weather forecasting.”

Blue Canyon has been expanding rapidly in recent years. Earlier this week, the Colorado-based small satellite manufacturer and mission services provider held a grand opening for its new cubesat factory in Boulder, Colorado.  The 2,880-square-meter facility allows Blue Canyon to increase annual production from 50 to 85 cubesats, the company said in an Aug. 4 news release. 

The Tomorrow.io microwave sounder payload leverages the heritage of NASA’s TROPICS program by using MIT Lincoln Laboratory’s next generation Microwave Sounder Instrument which collects temperature, water vapor, precipitation, and cloud ice measurements to study storms and other meteorological events. This constellation of passive microwave sounders will complement Tomorrow.io’s constellation of weather radar satellites. The combination of radar and microwave sounding data leans on the long heritage of NASA’s Global Precipitation Mission and is expected to significantly improve real-time situational awareness, short-term nowcasts, medium-term forecasts, and climate studies.

The CubeSats will be designed, built, and tested in the company’s new CubeSat Factory, which opened in Boulder, Colorado, on Aug. 3, 2022. Once in production, BCT will deliver two space vehicles per month.