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LEO Satellites Now Delivered By Drone
April 9, 2021 News


Authored by: Nancy Friedrich, Aerospace & Defense Industry Solutions Manager at Keysight Technologies

As low earth orbit (LEO) satellites launch by the hundreds, satellite delivery continues to achieve new efficiencies. Most recently, SpaceX launched its first dedicated SmallSat Rideshare Program Mission. The Falcon-9 launched the mission, Transporter-1, with 10 Starlink satellites and 133 commercial and government spacecraft, according to SpaceX – an industry first for a single mission. As impressive as this achievement is, Aevum believes its Ravn X drone can better deliver a LEO small-satellite payload.

According to a CNET article, “World’s biggest drone will send satellites into space on a rocket,” liftoff usually starts with a ground-based rocket. In addition to being expensive, this approach is very time-consuming. “Aevum believes its massive Ravn X drone can do it better, for less money,” notes CNET.

In an introduction video, Aevum introduces the Ravn X unmanned aerial system for rocket launch and space logistics. The company already has been selected for its responsive launch capability as a Space Force partner for the Agile Small Launch Operational Normalizer (ASLON) -45 mission. According to Lieutenant Colonel Ryan Rose of U.S. Space Force, speaking on behalf of the U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center and Launch Enterprise, “The need for such capability is only intensifying for our warfighters and national leaders. Responsive space launch is a game-changing capability and can enhance national security space resilience. As the threat is growing to U.S. space superiority, responsive space launch provides another key tool in our warfighter arsenal.”

According to the Aevum press release, “Autonomous Launch, unlike ground launch or air launch, involves a global, fully-autonomous, self-flying, self-managing, self-operating intelligent system of systems, called the autonomous launch architecture, working in concert to deliver payloads from any terrestrial origin to any space destination in low Earth orbit. The autonomous launch architecture optimises every launch, taking into account variables including weather conditions, air traffic, orbital destination, payload weight, ground crew schedules, and other complex logistics processes to provide an end-to-end seamless service, autonomously.”

The autonomous launch vehicle (AuLV) operates like an airplane. It uses any one-mile runway and requires an 8000-sf hangar. With a fleet of these vehicles, Aevum plans to offer on-demand scheduling of precision orbital deliveries as frequently as every 180 minutes. Once it has made its LEO delivery, the AuLV returns to Earth, landing and parking itself in its hangar. The AuLV is 80 feet long with a 60-foot wingspan. At 18 feet tall, it weighs 55k lbs. at takeoff.

The autonomous launch paradigm is expected to lower the barrier for space access. In doing so, it will benefit industries including weather monitoring, agriculture, the Internet of Things, and of course, defense and intelligence. As Lieutenant Colonel Ryan noted, “Having a robust U.S. industry creating responsive launch capability is key to ensuring that the U.S. Space Force can respond to future threats.”

To find out how Keysight can help you attain confidence across all stages of your space and satellite mission, visit our site.