UPLINK: A Conversation With...
Patricia A. Remias, Comtech AeroAstro
We availed ourselves of the opportunity to chat with some leaders involved in the small satellite industry. One such individual is the Executive Vice President and General Manager, Space, for Comtech AeroAstro, Patricia A. Remias.
Ms. Remias, would be you please describe your Companys role in the small satellite market segment?
Comtech AeroAstro was founded in 1988 on the premise that space could and should be more accessible to a wider number of users and thus need not be either overly complex or enormously expensive. Over the ensuing 20 years, we have maintained our focus on finding simple solutions to space-based challenges in a wide variety of mission areas and applications .
We have built and launched four satellites in the <200kg class, and developed a wide range of associated technologies that support the functionality needed by those satellites, usually in very small packages. Examples of these include miniaturized star trackers, imagers, and radios. We provide our space system solutions and components to Government, civil, commercial, and international customers.
Have you experienced growth within the small satellite segment of the market? If so, in what areas?
Weve seen significant growth in the small satellite market over the last several years. There is growing recognition in the space community that many missions can be accomplished with much smaller, and more capable, spacecraft than has ever been possible before. Examples include initiatives in Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) that meet critical warfighter operational needs, replenishment of several commercial constellations of small satellites, a variety of missions that use plug-n-play technologies, and several NASA and DARPA programs. In an era of tough economies and shrinking budgets, customers want more for less. Small satellites are no longer strictly science demonstration and education missions, but rather an often faster-and-cheaper option to meeting critical needs for the space customer base.
Have you witnessed more of a desire on the part of universities to now more fully involve the commercial side of the industry to help them launch their small satellite projects?
Comtech AeroAstro has always had close ties to the university community its a win/win situation for all parties. We work together in a variety of ways; subcontracts for technology development, support of university space missions, co-sponsorship of workshops and conferences, employment of interns and graduates, and associations with university-based principal investigators. We always look for space experience in recent graduates that we hire as employees, they are our future. With the availability of smaller and cheaper technologies like the Cubesat kits, universities can accomplish space missions in shorter timelines that allow the students to experience the entire mission life-cycle. We anticipate continued support of the university community and their initiatives as the small satellite market continues to mature.
Where do you see the small satellite segment moving over the next year or two in both the commercial and military side? What payloads seem to be garnering the most acceptance for incorporation with small satellites?
Small satellites continue to prove themselves in almost every mission area communications, imaging, earth and space science, and a multitude of others in both commercial and military applications. Concepts like force enhancement increasing the capability of already-existing assets by launching satellites that work with them has great potential. Space Situational Awareness (SSA), the desire to understand whats happening around our assets in space, is another area that lends itself to small satellites.
SatMagazine What are the most important reasons for those in the industry to consider small satellites for their various payloads? Are there any launch advantages?
There are few limits on what small satellites can accomplish, except on those missions where physically very-large payloads are required, and even some of those can be accomplished using constellations of small satellites working together. Missions that require very high reliability can be addressed by launching multiple identical vehicles, either together or in sequence, rather than building complicated, multiply-redundant single-platform systems. This approach also reduces mission risk due to any single launch failure.
Small satellites can use secondary launch opportunities where the target orbit allows, greatly reducing launch costs, or allow multiple spacecraft to launch on a single rocket. On the first EELV Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) launch in 2007, Comtech AeroAstro was one of six spacecraft (from five different sponsoring organizations) on a single rocket. We look at requirements with an open mindset and the goal of meeting our customers needs in the most efficient way possible, and presenting cost-saving alternatives at every opportunity.