NanoAvionics MP42 bus (Source: NanoAvionics)

NanoAvionics upsizes from cubesats to modular ESPA bus

Small satellite manufacturer NanoAvionics announced last week it is introducing a larger modular spacecraft design.  The MP42 bus is the next step up for the company, which started with cubesats and moved into modular cubesat designs.

Over the next five years, NanoAvionics expects to go fivefold in size across its entire service portifolio, producing around 120 satellites per year by 2025.  The MP42 bus is the latest edition to the company’s end-to-end smallsat mission infrastructure, offering turnkey solutions covering mission design, production, launch brokering, ground segment communications, and satellite operations.

A standardized bus provides companies lower costs through standardization and rapid development, enabling rapid integration of payloads and the ability to build and deploy spacecraft much quicker than a customized solution. NanoAvionics experts to keep 80% of its architecture consistent for each mission, using modular subsystems manufactured in advance and at scale to lower cost.

Standardized and lower cost satellites should make it significantly easier for companies to procure a small satellite, especially for telecommunications, remote sensing, emergency communications, and research projects.  The MP42 microsatellite bus, sized around the ESPA secondary payload adopter standard popular in rideshare missions, is capable of carrying payloads up to 50 kilograms and have a lifetime of up to 10 years in low earth orbit, depending on the altitude.

“The MP42 bus is a significant part of our overall end-to-end approach. It will enable a large number of organizations to enter and benefit from the space market previously prevented by barriers in the microsat segment such as cost, lack of modularity, mechanical restraints and suitable mission operations,” said Vytenis J. Buzas, CEO of NanoAvionics. “Their high-end applications and mega constellation requirements can mostly be carried out with a payload weight of 40kg and above, and I see a big opportunity for lowering cost and lead time reduction in this segment, too.”

NanoAvionics facilities in Lithuania, the US and the UK are equipped for production and integration of microsats and production lines can be scaled up for larger constellation orders. First flights of MP42-based constellation pathfinders are planned for 2022.

Enhancements for the MP42 bus over cubesats included an upgraded payload controller for higher speed data exchange and to support payload operations, an enhanced computer for on-board payload data processing and the ability to implement customer software blocks, an intersatellite link for uninterrupted real-time communications, a high-speed downlink, an integrated “green” chemical propulsion system, and various mission control software and flight equipment tweaks.

NanoAvionics decision to move to a larger satellite bus comes as companies planning to build large constellations are looking for larger satellites capable of providing more power for communications and radar applications and more volume for high-quality optical imaging payloads (telescopes) for higher resolution. 

It also comes at a time when small launch companies are starting to move to larger vehicles and provide turn-key “Satellite-as-a-Service” offerings for government and commercial customers that want to build hardware and launch it faster. Rocket Lab’s Photon satellite is one example of turn-key service offering on the market today.

Doug Mohney

Doug Mohney, a principal at Cidera Analytics, has been working and writing about IT and satellite industries for over 20 years. His real world experience including stints at two start-ups, a commercial internet service provider that went public in 1997 for $150 million and a satellite internet broadband company. Follow him on Twitter at DougonTech or contact him at dmohney139 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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