–Internet shoppers can fill their virtual shopping carts with just about anything these days – even satellites.
Clyde Space founder Craig Clark, whose Web site began in August offering satellite batteries, solar panels and kits to buy tiny satellites called cubesats, believes within two years customers will be able to buy both complete satellites and launch services by placing Internet orders.
believes the selection will continue to grow as satellites get smaller and their parts more standardized.
Clyde Space launched its online market largely in response to people who wanted a rapid turnaround of cubesat subsystems. Cubesats, 10-centimeter cubes weighing
, were predicated on the idea of getting from inception to launch within 24 months.
Universities and governments seeking a way around time-consuming paperwork of purchase orders started asking if they could pay for satellite components by credit card,
“We were looking for a way to overcome that [credit card] issue, so people could quickly pay and get the hardware,” he said.
Clyde Space Ltd. of
, has been selling power supply systems the conventional way since
started the company in 2005. The former head of power systems at Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. in
, believes cubesats will spark future demand for online sales of his company’s power supply systems and other components.
have become increasingly popular in recent years because of their size and ability to be launched in groups of three or six as secondary payloads to larger satellites, reducing launch costs. Their appeal is spreading from small university-based experiments to government-sponsored constellations for satellite communications and Earth monitoring.
Clyde Space joined the cubesat market one year ago, and since then has sold 25 power systems, 40 batteries and 40 solar panels. While much of the company’s business comes from the
, it also has customers from other foreign countries such as
sees selling satellite parts through e-commerce as a way to simplify doing business with foreign companies located in widely varying time zones.
The standardization of cubesat subsystems has made cubesats cheaper to build and launch. Manufacturers can build those subsystems in bulk, creating an off-the-shelf supply that costs manufacturers less to produce. Clyde Space can pass that cost savings on to customers by stocking its shelves with the components and making them quickly available online,Clark said.
“To get costs down, we need to make sure it costs $3,000 to $4,000 for a power system for a cubesat,” he said.
Clyde Space also is selling off-the-shelf kits, created by San Francisco-based Pumpkin Inc., for building cubesats. The kits are designed to help missions adhere to the cubesat timeline of 24 months from inception to launch. Pumpkin does not sell its kits through its own Web site, but plans to in the future, said Andrew Kalman, president of Pumpkin.
“That’s really where the world is going, and both
and Pumpkin share the same vision,” Kalman said.
At Pumpkin, however, buyers still have many options and Kalman and his staff like to talk with buyers to make sure they are making purchases that match their needs, he said, adding that Pumpkin takes credit cards by phone.
Pumpkin notes on its Web site that the cubesat kits cannot be sold either by Pumpkin or resellers to
due to the restrictions contained in
Satellites and satellite components are subject to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which prohibits the export of items on the State Department’s Munitions List, which includes satellites and satellite components.
Like Pumpkin’s Web site, Clyde Space will post data sheets on the hardware offered.
said Clyde Space’s Web site also will provide online mission design tools so customers can select the subsystems that meet their mission requirements.
Right now, the company is selling two to three subsystems per month. In addition to cubesat kits and subsystems, Clyde Space also offers a modular power system suitable for a microsatellite weighing as much as
and lithium-polymer batteries for both cubesats and the larger microsatellites.
believes demand will grow as more options and information are added to the Web site. The company already is working with Netherlands-based Innovative Solutions in Space, which locates launch space for small satellites as secondary payloads, to see if launch services could be offered on the Clyde Space Web site.
“I can see a year or two from now you’ll be able to select all you can do and put it in a basket,”