Faraday smallsat
The Faraday small satellite platform will be able to carry a variety of hosted payloads, from 50 kilograms down to single circuit boards. Credit: SSTL

LOGAN, Utah — A British small satellite manufacturer and a startup company are partnering on a mission to fly a series of smallsats carrying hosted payloads of varying sizes.

Faraday is a joint project of Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) and In-Space Missions Ltd., a company founded in 2015 by former SSTL executives that provides spacecraft services and consulting. Faraday features a spacecraft developed by SSTL, with In-Space Missions offering accommodations on the spacecraft for payloads ranging from 50 kilograms down to individual circuit boards.

Those circuit board slots are offered for $12,000. “That’s great for universities, but it’s also pretty good for guys who want to get some test data from flying their new components,” said Doug Liddle, chief executive of In-Space Missions, in an Aug. 9 interview during the 31st Annual Conference on Small Satellites here.

Faraday also includes slots for single-unit cubesats for $120,000 each. Those payloads would remain attached to the spacecraft, but Liddle said that there may be future opportunities to deploy cubesats from the Faraday spacecraft.

The largest payloads, he said, can weigh up to 50 kilograms, although the companies have not disclosed pricing for them. “We’ve got two identified this week already, at about 20 to 25 kilograms,” he said.

The idea for Faraday, he said, came from experience on past missions, such as SSTL’s TechDemoSat, a smallsat launched in 2014 carrying a variety of payloads from the British space industry. That mission, he said, showed there was interest in flying something similar to test technologies and provide commercial services for some of those payloads as well. “There’s a been a definite pull from the community,” he said.

The first Faraday mission is scheduled for launch into a sun-synchronous orbit in the first quarter of 2019. The spacecraft bus itself is based on past SSTL designs with significant heritage. “We’re making this bit almost boring, because it just has to work,” he said of the bus.

On that mission, the spacecraft will operate all the payloads for a six-month demonstration and qualification period. After that, the bus can operate for up to five more years to serve one or more of the payloads, as negotiated with the customers.

The initial agreement for Faraday between SSTL and In-Space Missions covers three missions, launched once a year. “Then we’ll see where we go from there,” Liddle said.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...