D-Orbit sets ambitious course for space logistics

D-Orbit sets ambitious course for space logistics

D-Orbit sets ambitious course for space logistics

SAN FRANCISCO — Space logistics company D-Orbit announced a $2 million contract on June 9 with the European Space Agency to upgrade production of its ION Satellite Carrier.

It was the latest victory for the Italian company with ambitious plans to offer a wide range of satellite services, from active debris removal to cloud computing in space.

Under the contract, ESA will fund D-Orbit’s campaign to improve the performance and reduce costs of ION, the vehicle that carries cubes and microsatellites from where a large rocket takes them to their desired orbital destinations.

The growing popularity of rideshare flights such as SpaceX Transporter missions is expected to drive demand for last-mile deliveries. Euroconsult’s Space Logistics Markets report published in May predicts 120 orbital transfer vehicles in use by 2031.

About a dozen companies around the world design, develop and test orbital transfer vehicles. For now, D-Orbit is the only company with a commercial vehicle that has proven itself as a getaway vehicle, said Renato Panesi, founder and Chief Commercial Officer of D-Orbit. Space news

D-Orbit first demonstrated its last-mile delivery service in 2020. On six flights, D-Orbit has carried more than 80 payloads into orbit, including 60 satellites deployed from ION and additional payloads being carried on board. hosted.

D-Orbit also maintains a range of products and services for other aerospace companies.

For example, Beyond Gravity, formerly called Ruag Space, awarded D-Orbit a contract in April to supply carbon fiber reinforced polymer tools and metal structural components for ESA’s Space Rider. Thales Alenia Space is the prime contractor for Space Rider, an unmanned laboratory designed to house technology demonstrations and science experiments in low Earth orbit, before the payloads are returned to Earth. The Space Rider vehicle is then refurbished, refueled and loaded for another flight.

Space Rider’s mission statement “aligns perfectly with our vision to enable profitable business and human expansion in a sustainable space,” said Panesi.

In the long term, D-Orbit aims to dominate the space logistics market.

“The idea is to take care of the customer’s journey from mission analysis to launch to decommissioning,” said Panesi. “It’s about having your assets positioned correctly whenever you want.”

D-Orbit plans to offer satellite services, including inspection, refueling and minor repairs.

“Maybe we can consider active debris removal as part of the service, today in low Earth orbit, later in geostationary orbit,” Panesi said. “In the distant future, we see potential markets for recycling and in-orbit manufacturing.”

Meanwhile, D-Orbit is laying the groundwork for a space-based cloud computing venture.

“If we manage to have an ION equipped with its own cloud computing suite and intersatellite links, we could have a small constellation of nodes processing information,” Panesi said.

D-Orbit teamed up with Sweden’s Unibap to demonstrate a radiation-tolerant computer module aboard ION in 2021.

“One of the things we’ll be testing later this year or early next year is the intersatellite links, both optical and radio frequencies,” Panesi said.

On the financial side, D-Orbit is preparing to merge with Breeze Holdings Acquisition Corp., a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC. The merger is expected to close in the third quarter of this year.

While SPACs aren’t as popular in the space sector as they will be in 2021, Panesi remains confident that the deal will benefit D-Orbit.

“On the one hand, we are securing capital,” said Panesi. “On the other hand, we have a valuable partner to help us enter the large US market step by step.”

D-Orbit employs approximately 200 people, the majority of whom are located near the company’s headquarters in Como, Italy. In addition, D-Orbit has offices in Portugal, the United Kingdom and Falls Church, Virginia.