Aerospacelab’s Grégoire satellite successfully launched

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Aerospacelab has sent its second satellite into orbit with mission management and integration services provider, Exolaunch, aboard SpaceX’s Transporter-8 mission on a Falcon 9 rocket.

Berlin, Germany and Mont-Saint-Guibert, Belgium, 13 June 2023 – 14:30 CET – Aerospacelab, the fast-growing small satellite Belgian manufacturer, and Exolaunch, the German-US global supplier of mission management and integration services, are pleased to announce the launch of Aerospacelab’s Grégoire satellite, the company’s second private small satellite to travel into space. Two years after Aerospacelab’s first satellite mission (Arthur-1) flew into space on SpaceX’s second dedicated small satellite rideshare program mission (Transporter-2), Grégoire lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, United States on June 12th, 2023 at 2:35pm PT.

With this launch, the two European companies initiate their cooperation under a Multi-Launch Agreement that will, through 2023 and 2024, enable the launch of seven of Aerospacelab’s innovative Versatile Satellite Platform (VSP) via SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and further strengthen their relationship. Aerospacelab and Exolaunch are members of the Young European Enterprises Syndicate for Space (YEESS), an international organization dedicated to boosting competitivity and promoting innovations emerging from the space sector in Europe.

While primarily focused on demonstrating Aerospacelab’s Versatile Satellite Platform (VSP) capabilities in terms of attitude control, data handling and payload interfaces, to only name a few, Grégoire further makes the case for Aerospacelab’s laser communication operating between the satellite and its ground station thanks to a Free Space Optical Communication (FSOC) embarked terminal. In addition to illustrating Aerospacelab’s expertise on design, structure building and vertical manufacturing integration, Grégoire represents the maiden flight of Aerospacelab’s Versatile Satellite Platform which, on one hand, aims to provide private and public stakeholders with standardized building blocks capable of accommodating various missions and, on the other hand, ensures progress towards the company’s project to build a constellation of satellites in the upcoming years.

The Versatile Satellite Platform (VSP) is a key component of Aerospacelab’s plan to provide a European answer to the expected upsurge in global small satellite demand. Indeed, after securing 40€ million in Series B financing in 2022, the company is about to start the construction of its satellite megafactory which will become Europe’s largest manufacturing factory with an expected production capacity of 500 satellites/year.

For Benoit Deper, CEO and founder of Aerospacelab, “the launch of Grégoire, our second small satellite to reach orbit, is not only a key milestone that highlights Aerospacelab as a global player in the aerospace industry, it is also the opportunity for us to assert our expertise and showcase that we’re able to internally design and manufacture most of the satellite’s components while remaining competitively priced.”

“Exolaunch is proud to be awarded a series of launch contracts from Aerospacelab to safely deliver their seven VSP satellites into orbit,” said Jeanne Allarie, VP Launch at Exolaunch. “It’s been a pleasure to work with Aerospacelab’s highly professional team over successive launch campaigns to perform a rapid VSP satellite constellation deployment in a matter of months. Having just launched Grégoire on a Falcon 9 from Vandenberg, we look forward to many more successful launches together with Aerospacelab and SpaceX!”

Aerospacelab chose Exolaunch as launch services provider due to its outstanding record on Falcon 9 and its flight heritage spanning 20 missions. In addition to overseeing Grégoire and its follow-on satellites’ launches with end-to-end mission management, Exolaunch will provide Aerospacelab with its industry leading CarboNIX separation system to ensure reliable separation of the satellites. With a flight record of over 50 microsatellites deployed across 12 missions, CarboNIX will guarantee low-shock and smooth separations to safely deliver the satellites into their target orbits.

Dorian Lasnet, Project Manager at Aerospacelab, comments: “In projects of this scope, agility and adaptability are crucial turning points that define the “make it” or “break it” moment. Thanks to the talent and commitment of our collaborators, we were able to have a satellite ready for launch only a few years after design started from scratch. Not only was it possible to design and build this brand-new platform in house, but this asset allows now to speed up the follow-up missions with already 5 more satellites in their AIT phase right now.”

Grégoire satellite (VSP Vanilla Mission)

Grégoire satellite’s key features

Built upon the heritage of Aerospacelab’s previous mission (Arthur­1) and integrating new avionic designs targeting higher performances, Grégoire is a part of the VSP Vanilla mission which will bring in-orbit validation for a series of new units designed and manufactured in-house such as new:

  • On­board computer
  • S-band radio and antenna
  • X-band radio and antenna
  • Power conditioning and distribution unit
  • Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver