Virgin Orbit Will Help Test New Small Satellites In-Orbit Integration Tech3rd May 2022
The upcoming Virgin Orbit experimental mission will carry 19 small satellites as payloads. The mission is scheduled for this autumn and aims to find faster and more affordable ways to test technologies in orbit.
Virgin Orbit Upcoming Mission Details
As part of the experimental mission, Virgin Orbit will carry a small satellite called Slingshot 1. The 12U CubeSat was built by Aerospace Corp and should act as an interface to plug into and demonstrate technologies in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). In the upcoming Virgin Orbit mission, 19 payloads will be plugged into the small satellites interface.
Programme Manager on Small Satellites Tech
As Hannah Weiher, a Programme Manager at Aerospace, explains, the company plans to streamline small satellites development, using modular tech to make spacecraft building faster and more affordable. The idea behind Slingshot 1 tech is a simple plug to communicate with the satellite bus, and if the experiment goes well, the interface will be mass-produced for faster and more affordable access to orbits.
Weiher adds that even though the space industry has been working on setting a widely acceptable satellite-building standard, different companies still build their small satellites very different. The Slingshot 1 tech will address this issue, making it easier to accommodate payloads with different requirements.
According to Weiher, the actual payload interface is called the Handle, and it took two years to develop. She states that the interface design is compatible with all currently available small satellites. The experimental technology Virgin Orbit should soon help test uses Ethernet network to build a connection and communication protocol.
The upcoming small satellites technology mission was awarded to Virgin Orbit in 2020 and should finally take place in September 2022.