Swiss firm aims for low-cost satellite service

Mar 14, 2013
Swiss cosmonaut Claude Nicollier on June 15, 2007, in Paris. A new Swiss-based company said Thursday it would offer low-cost satellite launches which it claims could be a quarter of current market rates.

A new Swiss-based company said Thursday it would offer low-cost satellite launches which it claims could be a quarter of current market rates.

Swiss Systems-S3 said its goal was to offer launches for 10 million Swiss francs (8.1 million euros, $10.5 million) using unmanned suborbital spaceplanes that could carry satellites weighing up to 250 kilos (550 pounds).

"Our mission is to give access to space," the company said in a statement.

"Our aim is to democratise access to space by enabling emerging markets, countries, universities and research institutes to do what has not been possible for them up to know: deploy their own satellites," it added.

The company, which is led by Swiss astronaut Claude Nicollier, said it had a budget of 225 million Swiss francs and aimed to begin test launches in 2017.

Swiss Space Systems said it had already secured technological cooperation deals with key players in the sector including the , Dassault Aviation, the Von Karman Institute and Sonaca.

Suborbital planes used to the satellites would themselves be ferried to an altitude of 10,000 metres (32,800 feet) by a special Airbus A300 jet that is already certified for zero-gravity flights.

The spaceplanes would then climb to 80,000 metres (262,500 feet) to place the satellite in orbit, before gliding back to an earth-based "spaceport".

The company said it planned to open such a spaceport by 2015 at the Payerne airfield in western Switzerland, which has already been used by the Solar Pulse sun-powered aircraft of Swiss astronaut Bertrand Piccard.

Swiss Space Systems said that the plan's low-cost character was rooted in the reusable nature of the spaceplane and other launch facilities and that would be far less than that of conventional systems.

Countries including Malaysia and Morocco have already expressed an interest in partnership deals that could see them host additional spaceports, it said.

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User comments : 7

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Birger
5 / 5 (2) Mar 14, 2013
Obviously, the spaceplane will also carry an expendale second stage along with the satellite. The stage will give the satellite the second half of the delta-vee and place it in orbit (at a minimum of 185 km).
Bad writing, good idea.
baudrunner
1 / 5 (3) Mar 14, 2013
Naturally, I have a better idea that is maybe cheaper and maybe more doable.
Why not create a ring system around the earth made up of satellite debris, like the ones around the larger planets? Is the smaller size of the earth an obstacle to doing so, and if not, then let's do it!
Sanescience
not rated yet Mar 15, 2013
I suspect this is too complicated to be as "cheap" as they are proposing. A plane that carries a plane that caries a booster that carries a satellite. I say booster because a suborbital plane means "not orbital speed".
gwrede
5 / 5 (1) Mar 15, 2013
I suspect this is too complicated to be as "cheap" as they are proposing. A plane that carries a plane that caries a booster that carries a satellite. I say booster because a suborbital plane means "not orbital speed".
I suspect it is cheaper than a rocket that carries a rocket that carries a rocket that carries a satellite. All of which are sinlge-use.
Birger
not rated yet Mar 15, 2013
Single-use rockets are simpler than spaceplanes. And production of a long series of units also brings the cost down. Which is why the ancient Russian R-7 (Soyuz) was cheaper per pound to orbit than the Space Shuttle.
baudrunner
1 / 5 (1) Mar 15, 2013
About that ring system of satellite debris around the Earth. A single autonomous solar powered electromagnetic gatherer guided by ion thrusters could do the job. it might take a hundred years to clean up orbital space, but so what? Or maybe two, working in opposite directions in order to initialize their velocity to more closely match that of orbiting debris.

On the other hand, are non ferromagnetic alloys preferred in assembling satellites?
gwrede
not rated yet Mar 19, 2013
On the other hand, are non ferromagnetic alloys preferred in assembling satellites?
Yes.