Low Earth orbit satphone provider Iridium Communications has announced the first turnkey hosted payload solution, Iridium PRIME, that will host third-party payloads on stand-alone satellites, using their NEXT satellite network due to launch in 2015.
The U.S. Air Force has been interested in so-called hosted payloads for some time, reports Reuters, but mounting budget pressures have breathed new life into those efforts.
According to Iridium, the PRIME program revolutionizes the hosted payload business by reducing complexity, delays and costs.
Iridium PRIME is said to lower the cost and increase flexibility of hosted payloads by providing a proven end-to-end satellite constellation with complete flexibility on the number of payloads they deploy, number of planes they occupy, and independent mission control with a cost savings of 50 percent or more compared to current stand-alone solutions.
The current Iridium satellite constellation consists of 66 active satellites and additional spare satellites in case of failure. Each satellite can have four inter-satellite links: two to neighbors fore and aft in the same orbital plane, and two to satellites in neighboring planes to either side.
Iridium NEXT, their second-generation platform, is expected to launch beginning in 2015. It will also consist of 66 satellites, with six in-orbit and nine on-ground spares.
Iridium NEXT will host payloads. Space is now fully allocated to two entities, Aireon for its space-based aircraft surveillance application and Harris Corporation for additional auxiliary payloads. Customers can use a whole satellite’s payload capacity, or just share that capacity with other applications and customers that Iridium brings together.
Satellites purchased under the Iridium Prime program would fly in the same 700-kilometer orbit as the Iridium Next constellation, thereby profiting from Iridium’s intersatellite links and ground infrastructure, explains SpaceNews.
The Iridium PRIME bus will be derived from the Iridium NEXT satellite design, removing L-Band communications equipment unnecessary for this use, and dramatically expanding the volume, weight, power and data capacity of the satellite vehicle to support a wider variety of payloads. The Automatic Identification System, for example, can track and monitor vessel movements.
Thales Alenia Space is leading the design and construction of the satellites for the Iridium NEXT constellation and will partner with Iridium to provide and produce a new satellite bus for Iridium PRIME, maintaining the inter-satellite crosslink functionality and the ability to fly within the NEXT constellation.
Aireon will use the Iridium NEXT hosted payload space to develop the world’s first space-based global aviation monitoring system.
ADS-B will be replacing radar as the primary surveillance method for controlling aircraft worldwide. Enabled by Harris’ 81 space-qualified ADS-B receivers, the system relies on two avionics components—a GPS navigation source and a datalink (ADS-B unit). This allows controllers to guide aircraft into and out of crowded airspace with smaller separation standards than it was previously possible.
In related AIS news, small, lightweight JIB antennas from Northrop Grumman’s Astro Aerospace will help provide Canada’s three RADARSAT Constellation Mission satellites planned for launch in 2018, as part of an Automated Identification System. The new RADARSAT Constellation is being designed for three main uses: Maritime surveillance, Disaster management, and Ecosystem monitoring.
ATK has expanded their product line of microsats for a wide range of civil, national security and commercial applications.
The ATK A100 has a small bus for microsats and nanosats, primarily for missions requiring payloads less than 15kg. ATK’s A700 series bus is the foundation of the ViviSat Mission Extension Vehicle, capable of docking with virtually all in-orbit geosynchronous satellites without interruption to operations.
Skybox Imaging hopes to launch its first two high-resolution imaging microsatellites, eventually surrounding the Earth with many imaging satellites to provide high-resolution imagery of any spot on earth multiple times per day. Puppet Labs will help manage the cloud-based image processing.
Co-inventor of Cubesats, Bob Twiggs, is now at Kentucky Space. KickSat has been “crowd-funded” through Kickstarter. NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative provides launch opportunities for small satellites. Electrically powered spacecraft propulsion may be the best shot at giving microsats manuverability. The AIAA Conference on Small Satellites, held in Ogden, UT, has become internationally recognized as the premier conference on small satellites.
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