Exolaunch, which is a German launch services company, is developing the Reliant space tugs, which are constructed to tidy up debris after the satellites are launched into custom orbits. As per Exolaunch, vice president of the launch services, Jeanne Medvedeva, test flights on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rideshare initiative with customer payloads will begin in the second part of 2022.
In a first for the industry, the German firm, which has managed rideshare releases for over 140 small satellites, announced that its orbital transfer vehicles (OTVs) are going to de-orbit within a period of two hours of completing its mission. Flight qualification assessments will begin with the “Standard” configuration of Reliant, which will concentrate on moving satellites to the custom orbit altitude after they have been dispatched from a rocket on the set rideshare mission.
In an hour, Reliant Standard would be able to lift a satellite’s orbit from 250-300 kilometers to about 550 kilometers. The company intends to begin testing a Reliant Pro configuration in the year 2023, which will be able to make further adjustments, such as the inclination of the satellite’s orbit. “Dedicated injection, as well as custom orbit, are in high demand from the customers as well as the NewSpace sector in their constellation launch programs. However, they’ve been restricted to one orbit per release until now,” Medvedeva stated in an assertion.
“Our space tug scheme will now provide customers with multiple orbit choices for smallsat launches on any given mission, allowing for greater access to space and more diverse constellation launch tactics,” says the company. It’s also our commitment to in-space logistics capacity-building, a recently emerging area in the Exolaunch platform that’s gaining traction.”
The first two phases of Medvedeva’s OTV programme, according to SpaceNews, are designing the capacity to lift a satellite’s altitude and then tuning its inclination. The OTV’s final move will be to aggressively reduce space debris, which has become an incredibly significant concern for the sector as the volume of in-orbit satellites has increased dramatically, thanks in part to firms like Exolaunch.
Modular payloads connected to the Reliant Pro could retrieve space debris after satellites have been deployed before the OTV de-orbits. In the same discussion, Exolaunch chief operating officer (COO) Alexander Kabanovsky said, “The aim is to pull down as many as we put up.” Exolaunch is among companies working on OTVs to meet the growing demand for more customized as well as flexible small satellite launch services.
As a component of SpaceX’s record-setting Transporter-1 project, rideshare rival Spaceflight debuted the first of a set of progressively updated Sherpa OTVs on January 24. Sherpa-FX was the spacecraft that transported 16 of the 143 tiny satellites that were launched on that day. Although the Sherpa-FX does not have propulsion, two other OTV models, the Sherpa-LTC with gas propulsion, as well as the Sherpa-LTE with the electrical propulsion, is expected to be released later this year.