Our mission is to enable continuous operations for small satellites. We are currently doing so by developing an innovative mechanism to rotate solar panels on board of a CubeSat.
Aerospace Engineering (Space Flight)
Over het initiatief / About the initiative
In welke fase zit jouw initiatief? / In what stage is your initiative?
Heb je jouw initiatief al gevalideerd? / Did you validate your initiative?
The approach that we used for market validation relied on potential customer interviews. We have talked with space practitioners, industry experts, leading organization representatives, researchers, and companies active in the NewSpace sector. We focused our validation efforts on nanosatellite integrators and constellation companies. Up to date, we have interviewed 80+ people with different backgrounds, including two interviews with Spire and Planet (the only two players that currently operate a constellation of CubeSats with more than 100 units). We can summarize the findings of this validation process in the following points: Size: CubeSats are getting bigger. 3U/6U CubeSats are optimal for technological demonstrations, but companies are moving to 12U/16U or microsatellites sizes to provide their service because of power and volume requirements (confirmed by at least 7 companies). Complexity: Fixed deployables add constrain on pointing, but rotating panels introduce extra complexity, so reliability is key (confirmed by at least 9 companies). Power: more power is needed to improve payload duty cycles (especially for small CubeSat sizes), for electric propulsion, and for onboard data processing (confirmed by at least 6 companies). SADAs on the market: there is lack of high-quality low-cost COTS (confirmed by at least 3 companies). Differential drag: it is often considered to have the minimum number of satellite with global coverage, sometimes in combination with propulsion module, but it can slow down operations during phasing and it is not good for out-of-plane maneuvers (confirmed by at least 8 companies). Planet, Spire, and Hiber have actively used it before. It makes sense especially for a constellation, while for single CubeSats the orbit is not too important (confirmed by at least 6 companies) Propulsion: it can be needed, e.g., to correct orbit insertion from launcher or to speed up phasing/formation, but it prevents from doing continuous operations (due to pointing requirements and peak power in case of electric propulsion) and it increases the complexity of the design while also introducing overhead in operations (confirmed at least by 10 companies). Deorbiting: it is not a strong reason to use propulsion (unless regulations will change) because of increasing costs and complexity (confirmed by at least 5 companies). Most of these points validate our proposition, but point 5 (differential drag) and 6 (propulsion) may require us to adjust it to better fit the rapidly evolving market. Although the market value of the space industry as a whole is growing fast, the CubeSat constellation market is still in its early stages, with a restricted number of industry players that are still in the preliminary phases of their businesses. Many of the planned constellations in the next 5 years are only at the initial phase of deployment and therefore the companies lack empirical data from the operations of such space infrastructure. In parallel, although the Cubesat market is more developed, it is still dominated by few important players. As a result, getting in touch with potential partners and clients is complicated.
Meer informatie over jouw initiatief / More info about your initiative
Internet connectivity in remote areas, digital payments, weather forecasts, and navigation are just some of the examples of the influence that space has on our everyday life. The perspective offered by satellites helps in monitoring the health of Earth and of human activities. It’s an exciting moment for NewSpace: we are now at the onset of the exponential growth of the market of constellations; there are 135 companies that have started launching or will start launching nano- and microsatellites (small satellites with mass less than 100 kg) in constellations in the next 2 years.
However, satellite operations are not continuous. This negatively affects the costs and the revenue of any company operating a constellation as it has to either employ more satellites in order to deliver a continuous service to its end-user or it has to allow for downtime in its service. There are three major problems that affect the continuity of operations: limitation in power, bottlenecks in data transmission, and orbital maneuvers. Revolv Space’s initial mission is to enable more continuous operations by removing the limitation in power and the operation disruptions from maneuvers.
SARA (Solar Array Rotary Actuator) is the first multipurpose subsystem for nanosatellites that rotates the solar panels. SARA has two operating modes: 1) Autonomous Sun tracking to enhance the power available on board by up to 117% compared to fixed deployable panels of the same size and 2) Maneuver mode, enabled by our ground station software ISIDE (Interface for Software Intelligent Drag Exploitation), using the aerodynamic forces which provides 15% more time spent on data generation compared to the same maneuvers without SARA.
We first focus on power and we sell SARA with a transaction-based model to the European CubeSat manufacturers (our beachhead market). The price is currently estimated to be 25K EUR for the 3U version and 40K EUR for the 6U. Upon successful entry, where we accumulate a strong track record of flight heritage and develop sufficient manufacturing capabilities for larger batch orders, we will expand to constellation companies. SARA will have the same business model, while we will also sell ISIDE using a SaaS model for a monthly cost depending on the number of satellites to maneuver.
SARA is now at TRL 4 and we have secured enough funds from grants and pitch competitions to perform the environmental tests and bring it to TRL 7 by the end of the year. We have gathered 5 LOIs at the moment and two more are currently undergoing. We have quotes for the IOD of SARA and we have found an IOD for ISIDE.
In our vision, SARA has a two-fold purpose. On one side, it serves to affirm Revolv Space as a competitive player in the market, establishing its brand and starting to generate initial revenue. On the other side, SARA will enable new applications that are now currently not possible as they require considerably more power and flexibility in maneuvers than what is available at the moment. Our long-term goal is to manufacture our own satellite platforms equipped with SARA and ISIDE for the emerging market of Very Low Earth Orbit.
Wat zijn jouw volgende stappen om het verder te ontwikkelen? / What are your next steps to develop the initiative?
- July 2022: assembly of engineering model is concluded, functional tests are carried out
- August – September 2022: based on the outcome of the functional tests, a new iteration of the design is performed and the engineering model is refurbished
- October – December 2022: qualification campaign through environmental tests (thermal vacuum and vibration tests)
- January – February 2023: based on the outcome of the environmental tests, design adjustments are made and a flight model is built (TRL 7)
- March 2023: the flight model is sent to the IOD provider and integrated on their platform
- End of 2023: In-Orbit Demonstration of SARA (TRL 9)
- July – September 2022: finalize market validation through customer talks
- October 2022 – January 2023: develop a beta version
- February – March 2023: do a pilot with a potential customer
- April 2023: integrate customer feedback
- May – October 2023: develop stable version
- October – November 2023: deployment
- December 2023: In-Orbit Demonstration
- 2024: first customer
7.7.3 Business / financials
- August 2022: finalize IOD partnership. We have several conversations ongoing and we have a couple of quotes. We are discussing the timeline and payment schedule to assess which one is the best option for us (cost of the service, timeline which equals time-to-market, technical requirements). To mitigate possible risks, we could resort to a launch broker company (and we are in talks with two).
- September 2022: secure strategic partnerships with solar panel suppliers. We are in talks with some solar cell / solar panel suppliers, we are considering applying to EU grants with one of those companies to further extend the capabilities of SARA and improve its performance.
- December 2022: find pilot project for ISIDE. We are planning to attend several conferences to talk to potential customers and select the most suitable candidates.
- February 2023: sign pre-sale agreements for SARA. We will build our commercial pipeline once SARA reaches TRL 7 and we will start selling the product before it gains flight heritage (agreements will turn into contracts if the IOD is successful).
- September 2023: seed round.
Wat heb je nodig om (nog meer) impact te maken met dit initiatief? / What do you need to make (more) impact with this initiative?
We need more funding and a new recruit to the team. With these two things, we will be able to prove that our system will lower the financial barriers for space service providers that can benefit the Earth. In addition, our system can be used to deorbit satellite faster, which will contribute to make space safer, as it will mitigate the problem of space debris.