Kurs Orbital, an aerospace startup co-founded by Ukraine’s space agency chief, Volodymyr Usov, uses technology used during the Soviet Union era to develop an in-orbit service vehicle. According to media reports, the Ukrainian venture will launch a demo vehicle in the year 2023. “Launch vehicles, as well as satellites, are attracting a lot of investment, and servicing may be the next big thing in the sector, “said Usov.
Years ago, the technology used by Soviet Union experts allowed satellites to dock with Mir space station as well as later upgraded it to serve the Soyuz spacecraft that docked with the International Space Station (ISS).
When turmoil arose in the Ukrainian space agency, Usov left and partnered with several entrepreneurs to establish Kurs Orbital. The group obtained rights to venture into satellite servicing from the Kurs system. Kurs, a docking navigation system, was used by the Soviet Union in space missions. It was developed by the Russian Research Institute of Precision Instruments in partnership with the Ukrainian Kiev Radio factory.
“Kurs Orbital has the rights to the original Kurs rendezvous system but is developing a new rendezvous acquisition module that uses machine vision, radar, and robotics,” said Usov. He added that this new module enables fully automatic docking even with uncooperative objects.
“Not having to spend years and billions of dollars reinventing a docking system is a huge advantage,” added Usov. The company targets the in-orbit servicing field, which already has big players such as Northrop Grumman, who have serviced one communications satellite belonging to Intelsat. Northrop Grumman is expected to service Intelsat’s second satellite, Intelsat-10-02, this year.
Another potential competitor to Kurs Orbital is the Japanese aerospace company Astroscale Holdings, which specializes in removing debris in orbit. In 2020, Astroscale announced the acquisition of Effective Space Solutions, a satellite servicing company based in Israel. This acquisition will enhance Astroscale’s capacity as a new entry into the GEO servicing market.
Kurs Orbital targets to raise $6.5 million in its first fund drive to enable the startup to start developing a demonstration vehicle scheduled for launch in 2023. “I think that we will be on schedule for 2023 with a demonstration mission,” noted Usov.
By 2025, the startup plans to have raised enough funds to build four space vehicles and start offering GEO repairs and relocations. Removing a satellite from the orbit (de-orbiting) is crucial because it provides an immediate source of money for satellite operators, revealed Usov.
“De-orbiting services would allow operators to keep the satellites in operation for several additional months and continue to generate revenues,” said Usov. Clear technical and safe operation standards are vital for the success of the in-orbit servicing. “On-orbit servicing ecosystem won’t be possible without clear standards for both technology and security issues,” added Usov.https://minernews.io/