Beyond Gravity: Mission-critical supplier for exploration
Many international science missions use key technology from Beyond Gravity. One example is the NASA Artemis moon program, which uses technology from Beyond Gravity (formerly RUAG Space) for the powering of its Orion crew capsules. Orion’s powerhouse, the European Service Module, receives its energy from solar power – four Beyond Gravity mechanisms per mission make sure that solar arrays are perfectly aligned towards the sun. “Our mechanisms have to perform particularly complex and extremely precise movements and position the solar array panels correctly for all three Artemis missions,” says Anders Linder, head of the satellite business at Beyond Gravity. The mechanisms are the largest mechanisms the company has built so far. “We are one of the few suppliers offering a full range of Solar Array Drive Mechanisms from the microsatellite class to the largest geostationary satellites or science missions.” Another highlight: Beyond Gravity is also building the Sunshield Solar Array Subsystem for the European “planet-hunting” mission PLATO.
Stable spacecraft structure
The structure is the spacecraft’s underlying body, which keeps it suitably rigid. As a global leader for satellite structures, Beyond Gravity, headquartered in Switzerland, designs, engineers, manufactures, assembles and tests high-precision and dimensionally stable satellite structures. For the Artemis European Service Module, as well as for the European ExoMars mission, Beyond Gravity delivered structures, which form part of the spacecraft’s chassis. They can be used as satellite backbones or as instrument platforms for mounting optical or other instruments. For example, Beyond Gravity designs and assemblies the optical bench of PLATO, on which 26 cameras will be mounted. Linder: “We are capable of developing and manufacturing sophisticated satellite structures on one hand, but also deliver satellites structure panels with highest-in-this-industry manufacturing cadence, short turn around and application of industrialization and quality standards on the other hand.”
Computers with strong track-record
Beyond Gravity computers have a strong track-record for institutional missions. For example, the company develops and produces the computer for the European planet-hunting mission PLATO, scheduled for launch in 2026 or Europe’s Jupiter icy moons mission JUICE. The data handling system will control the satellite, collect research information and communicate with the ground. If very high processing performance is needed Beyond Gravity offers the “Lynx” single board computer with a high-performance processor and a powerful FPGA. The Lynx computer is 250 times more powerful than regular onboard computers. Lynx is designed for a long life in any satellite orbit or spacecraft trajectory and can be used on the platform or in the payload.
Apart from spacecraft, rovers like the ExoMars rover are controlled by a Beyond Gravity onboard computer. The vehicle’s brain will handle all data from cameras and instruments. The computer will also autonomously navigate the rover on the surface of Mars and communicate with the ground control center on Earth.
Thermal protection for deep space
To protect probes from cold and heat on their year-long journey to distant planets and during their operational mission lifetime, Beyond Gravity develops and produces customized high-quality thermal insulation. One example is the thermal protection for the European-Japanese Mercury probe BepiColombo (launched 2018), which must withstand lengthy exposure to temperatures as high as 450 degrees Celsius. Beyond Gravity provides thermal insulation to numerous other exploration missions, like PLATO, the US-European sun mission Solar Orbiter or JUICE.
Advanced antenna systems
Beyond Gravity is also known for its advanced antenna systems. For instance, the company enables the communication of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope across the 1.5 million kilometers distance to Earth. “All of the amazing images and science data from the telescope are transmitted through our antenna system,” says Anders Linder.
High precision mechanisms for scientific instruments
Beyond Gravity has vast experience in the development and production of mechanisms for scientific instruments. “For the Webb telescope we are responsible for three crucial mechanisms for two of the telescope’s scientific instruments,” states Linder. Two further highlights: “For the ExoMars rover we provided a complex vehicle camera mast and for BepiColombo the steering system, the mechanism that points the electric propulsion.”
High-tech containers and trolleys
To transport a billion-dollar science satellite on Earth, only the best technology comes into question. For example, NASA trusts in a reusable high-tech container from Beyond Gravity for its deep space missions Europa Clipper and the Psyche asteroid mission. In total, Beyond Gravity delivered more than 60 customized spacecraft containers to governmental customers like ESA, NASA and commercial customers like Ball Aerospace or Maxar. Beyond Gravity also builds multipurpose trolleys, that can rotate and tilt a spacecraft during integration, like the Webb telescope or the interplanetary NASA spacecraft Europa Clipper. So far Beyond Gravity delivered more than 80 multipurpose trolleys to institutional and commercial customers in Europe and USA.