On May 25, SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 carrier into a sun-synchronous orbit. It will carry a satellite designed by Luxembourg company Space Products and Innovation (SPiN), which has developed an adapter intended to simplify the construction of satellites. The idea is to make it easier and cheaper to launch objects into space.
In any case, this is the direction the galaxy industry has taken, with players trying to lower prices and barriers to entry. SpaceX currently charges approximately $ 1,200 per pound (2,470 euros per kilo) of payload to send something into orbit. It may seem expensive but is only part of what NASA charges: $ 30,000 per book.
But as payload prices drop, the cost of building the satellite remains high. This is the problem expected to be solved by SPiN, a start-up in Luxembourg.
In 2014, SPiN’s future co-founder and CEO, Ran Qedar, was involved in developing the satellite system as part of his university studies. It took him three months to design the complex algorithms needed for advanced navigation and control, i.e., the software. And another full year to integrate this software with satellite.
“We discovered that there is no operating system like Windows or Linux for satellites,” he explains. “We can’t afford to take risks. We can’t afford to have Windows crash in the galaxy, or the complexity of Linux with its open source components that we don’t know all about.
As a result, most companies designed, and still design, these systems from scratch, a time -consuming and expensive process.
Ran Qedar, however, saw a video in which the U.S. Air Force performs a combination of software and a satellite in an incredibly short time of four hours, in 2008. It inspired him , but he had years of design and so much money went into just making this moment of hookup possible.
“We wondered how to achieve the same result without spending a billion dollars and decades on checking, qualifying and sending everyone into space to make sure it was working,” he explains. “That’s where we decided to build an adapter.”
Ran Qedar and his colleagues moved to Luxembourg because of its space sector. “We believe Luxembourg has the highest concentration of start-ups in the space”.
Risk -free software
The CEO compares the SPiN adapter to a plug converter you can take on trips abroad. Hardware-wise, it has over 25 different ports and eight interfaces. On the software side, the communication layer of the product “interacts” with the hardware in the same way that an operating system such as Windows interacts with a computer.
“But the difference,” he says, “is that we have to design risk -free software. We measure time in microseconds. Any delay for a satellite flying at 27,000 km/h is a big problem.”
Another priority is to make the system fully configurable, so that new protocols can be added without software updates.
SPiN made its first sale in 2018, three years after winning a start-up competition in Bremen. The team participated in the Luxembourg Fit4Start program in 2021, with the aim of building the satellite using its own adapter, both as a “proof of concept” and to prove its capabilities to potential customers.
This satellite, called SPiN-1 and assembled in just four hours, will be launched by a SpaceX rocket on May 25th.
Ultimately, according to Ran Qedar, the company’s goal is to enable satellites to be assembled using the components and technology needed or proprietary “and have this kind of concept where one makes satellites which is quite similar to Legos ”.
He estimates that accessibility to space will become more prevalent for businesses in nearly two years.
This article was written by
in English, translated and edited by Paperjam into French.