ESA Telecommunications & Integrated Applications

  • Space-equipped lab tests key workers for COVID-19

    Space-enabled tests are underway to empower healthcare workers, civil protection volunteers and members of the emergency services to help other people.

    As the immediate crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic fades in Europe, extensive testing systems are needed to enable the vital economic recovery.

  • Flight trials for greener aviation set for take off

    Commercial flight trials that use satellite-enabled communications to reduce the environmental impact of flying are scheduled to commence once normal traffic levels resume.

  • ESAIL maritime satellite ready for launch

    The ESAIL microsatellite for tracking ships worldwide – developed under an ESA Partnership Project – has completed its accommodation on Vega’s new dispenser for small satellites and is ready for launch. 

  • SSMS inaugural flight on Vega
    Video: 00:03:40 Vega's new SSMS dispenser provides routine affordable access to space for small satellites.
  • Animation of Vega VV16 launch and satellite deployment
    Video: 00:01:03

    Animated artist's view of the Vega VV16 launch and the deployment of ESAIL/SAT-AIS from the Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS) dispenser.

    Visible are the Attitude Vernier Upper Module (AVUM) and the SSMS dispenser with its payload of satellites and ESAIL separating from the SMSS dispenser.

    Multiple small satellites will be launched at once on the Vega VV16 mission. This flight will demonstrate the modular SSMS dispenser resting on its upper stage intended to bring routine affordable launch opportunities for light satellites from 0.2 kg CubeSats up to 400 kg minisatellites.

    Until now the smallest classes of satellites – all the way down to tiny CubeSats, built from 10 cm modular boxes – have typically ‘piggybacked’ to orbit. They have to make use of any spare capacity as a single large satellite is launched, meaning their overall launch opportunities are limited.

    "The new Vega Small Spacecraft Mission Service switches this into a ‘rideshare’ model, with multiple small satellites being flown together, splitting the launch cost,” commented Giorgio Tumino, managing ESA’s Vega and Space Rider programmes.

    SAB Aeropsace in the Czech Republic and Bercella in Italy designed and manufactured this modular dispenser for ESA’s Vega prime contractor Avio. The component structures are made of very low-density aluminium ‘sandwich’ panels protected by carbon fibre reinforced polymer skins. This makes it very lightweight and rigid.

    The SSMS comprises two main sections, the hexagonal lower section takes up to a dozen CubeSats or six small satellites while the upper section is used for micro, minisatellites and small satellites. Both sections can also be used independently.

    A central column, tower or hexagon, a supporting platform, adjustable rods and dividers are assembled to suit each mission. For this flight, a configuration called Flexi-3, weighing just 330 kg is being used.

    This demonstration flight aims to prove the technical and financial viability of the rideshare service. ESA has collaborated with the European Union, which has partly funded this mission within the Horizon 2020 programme. This is part of the Contribution Agreement between ESA and the EU on space technology activities signed on 16 April 2019.

    The ESAIL mission is a joint ESA LuxSpace project in an effort to extend the monitoring of maritime traffic beyond existing land-based tracking of Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) through the means of an array of microsatellites: SAT-AIS.