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FOCUS: Speaking Of Small Satellite Support...
by Dr. Milind Pimprikar, Chairman, CANEUS

Participants at the CANEUS 2004 and 2006 Conferences, held in Monterey, California and Toulouse, France, agreed that in order to open up the market for small satellites and facilitate dialogue between the many stakeholders in the industry, it was necessary to create an international consortium to coordinate, standardize, and offer launch opportunities for the small satellite industry.

The CANEUS Small Satellite Sector Consortium took an approach similar to that of the semiconductor industry, namely, the SEMATECH industry group. The consortium focuses on providing opportunities for industry representatives to participate in cutting-edge technical discussions while establishing the future direction of the small satellite industry. The consortium oversees five projects and initiatives dedicated to:
  • Developing standards so as to ensure international interoperability
  • Identifying launch opportunities and services
  • Providing stakeholder liaison and strategic development
  • Addressing Intellectual Property and ITAR issues in accordance with CANEUS International’s broader mission
  • Organizing launch certification services

This article describes Small Satellite developments within the international cooperation framework of the CANEUS network.

The current state of the international small satellite industry, although fragmented, has seen significant momentum and a niche share from the traditional satellite market. Numerous governments and private agencies run sub-critical small satellite programs, however, with very little communication between these groups. Furthermore, many component and sub-system developers are not familiar with small satellite end-user needs and customer requirements.

There is also concern that there exists a lack of transparency between developers and end-users. Participants at the CANEUS 2006 Conference in Toulouse, France agreed that in order to open up the market for small satellites and facilitate dialogue between the many stakeholders in the industry, it was necessary to create an international consortium for the coordination, standardization, as well to offer secondary payload launch opportunities for the small satellite industry.

Small Satellites (1 to 100 kg range) have captured the imagination worldwide of civilian and defense satellite end-users due to its exciting technological and economic possibilities. Unfortunately, what may be lost in this euphoria is the practical, hard reality that very few of these emerging micro-nano-pico-satellite concepts will be able to successfully bridge the “Valley of Death” in the path of development to usable systems or products. This is particularly true, as there are additional stringent requirements for performance and reliability of these small satellites. The CANEUS organization, which is an international body of engineering, management, and investment professionals, has been set up to address this precise need.

The Small Satellite Sector Consortium Mission
There are three elements that comprise the mission of the CANEUS Small Satellite Sector Consortium:
  • To provide advocacy for its members and foster the advancement and increased use of MEMS and Nano Technology toward the expansion of the small satellite market
  • To be the world’s catalyst for the small (Micro/Nano/Pico) satellite industry to bring breakthrough (“disruptive”) technologies to the space sector by ensuring space qualification, reliability, lower cost and added-value
  • By setting a global direction, to create opportunities for the flexible collaboration and conduct of strategic research and development (R&D) so as to yield a significant return on investment (ROI) to the Small Satellite industry partners

The core objectives include…
  • Advancing the maturity of emerging MNT concepts via the development of end-to-end system development strategies
  • Encouraging an attractive investment environment focused on the rapid, cost-effective development of MNT and related technologies that will lead to an expansion of the Small Satellite market
  • Fostering increased access to space by enabling the periodic and routine availability of primary and secondary space lift opportunities for Small Satellites
  • Leading in the development of functional and performance standards for Small, Micro and Nano-Satellites
  • Working with members to be a rapid and cost-effective mechanism that drives the pervasive use of next-generation Micro/Nano/Pico space satellite systems
  • Addressing critical challenges in advanced Micro/Nano/Pico satellite technologies, and finding ways to speed development, reduce costs, share risks, and increase utilization
  • Mitigating risks and costs collectively for the Small Satellite stakeholders by Providing space flight arrangements to validate MNT and related technologies
  • Arranging NPS satellite constellations
  • Expediting launch on demand

Implementation Plan
The arrangements for implementing the activities of the CANEUS Small Satellite Sector Consortium envisages, within the spirit of international cooperation, the sharing of tasks and funding among members in, initially, Canada, Europe, and the U.S.A.

Standards Development
This initiative aims to define form factors for nano and micro platforms, develop a collection of existing and emerging standards relevant to the sector, establish onboard data interface requirements, and ensure interoperability for international operations. Tactical goals include identifying task-groups around technology/platform areas, such as electrical interfaces, physical form factors, plug-and-play formats, data formats, and systems engineering; defining technical requirements for each technology/platform area; surveying the existing standards landscape within other subgroups, and performing gap analysis.

Launch Services
The Launch Services initiative hopes to advocate to the primary launchers (PP) to fly secondary payloads (SP) by appealing to the funding sources of those primary launchers and acquiring agency-level mandates (directives) to fly secondary payloads. This initiative aims to assist SPs in getting rides on primary missions. To this end, it must…
  • Establish an executive committee to rank and recommend SPs for rides
  • Act as a broker between the PP and SP communities to manage the SP roster
  • Certify an evaluation agency to score SPs for competencies
  • Help fund SP standards for development and verification
  • Acquire funds to assist in the integration costs for SPs
  • Fund CANEUS-sponsored SP missions in the future

Stakeholder Liaison and Strategic Development
Objectives of this initiative include bringing together all the stakeholders, individuals, and organizations that could benefit from a sustainable Small Satellite industry sector; identifying and prioritizing the key technology elements required for the Small Satellite sector, and developing and maintaining the supply chain infrastructure.

The goals are oriented to benefiting governmental laboratories and university research groups. This initiative shall ensure greater mission assurance through…
  • Improving reliability
  • Providing an alternate means to rapidly qualify new technologies
  • Lower the cost of demonstrating new technologies in space
  • Expanding launch opportunities
  • Supporting plug-and-play developmental efforts
  • Advancing concepts in modular design methods
  • Accelerating technology maturity up the TRL curve
  • Enabling university TRL 3 projects to get flight experience and facilitate moving to TRL 6 and beyond
  • Helping to shorten the acquisition timelines
  • Improving the alignment with the emerging technology development cycle Enhance the space industrial base
  • Supporting educational outreach and human capital for future jobs in the space industry

Project In The Works
Two new projects/initiatives are being formed. The framework of the total of five initiatives will provide a comprehensive support infrastructure from satellite developer through launch certification. Intellectual Property and Export Control
The objective of this initiative is to leverage the consortia community and develop a streamlined support mechanism for addressing the intellectual property issues. One focus will be related to patent related technology development, while the other effort will address the formal process on handling International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and Export Administration Regulations.

Launch Certification
This initiative aims at addressing launch certification services. Many launch organizations and government customers will require a certification sign off process and this initiative will compile a list of certification organizations and help facilitate the introduction and interactions .

Getting Down To Business
An important goal of the CANEUS Small Satellite Sector Consortium is to mitigate risk by pooling the financial resources and developments from several countries to rapidly gain acceptance for small satellites as a viable space mission platform. It will apply the CANEUS principles of coordinated development to promote the growth of the Small Satellite industry sector by bringing together all of the stakeholders, individuals, and organizations that can benefit from a sustainable Small Satellite industry sector.

The Small Satellite Sector Consortium will consider and prioritize the key technological elements required for the Small Satellite sector. These elements will be defined in the context of compelling business models for creating and sustaining the sector.

Workshops in France, Canada, and the United States gave rise to a formalized consortium structure, mission, and objectives, and implementation plans for the resulting projects and initiatives. These include standards development, launch opportunities and services, stakeholder liaison and strategic development, Intellectual Property and ITAR issues, and launch certification services. Furthermore, the array of consortia coordinated by CANEUS International allows for cross-sector collaboration and the funding and development of cost- and risk-mitigating projects responding to a variety of needs by developers and end-users in technology and applications.

By making use of recent breakthroughs in nanotechnologies and micro-electrical mechanical systems, the small satellites developed through the coordination efforts of the CANEUS Small Satellite Sector Consortium would be considered a ‘disruptive technology’ on par with the information technology revolution that has propelled new industries, services and capabilities for society.

For additional information, please contact Dr. Milind Pimprikar, Chairman of CANEUS International & CANEUS NPS at milind.pimprikar@caneus.org

About the author
Dr. Milind Pimprikar is listed in the “World’s Who’s Who” and the “Oxford Dictionary of International Biography.” He was nominated as an individual of “National Interest” by the Government of Canada. Dr. Pimprikar is founder and chairman of CANEUS, a network of countries developing micro and nanotechnologies for aerospace applications as well CANEUS NPS, an entity to produce nano and pico satellites for mass commercialization. He is also chairman of the Centre for Large Space Structures and Systems in Montreal, Canada.