D-Orbit unveils third mission for ION Satellite Carrier

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SAN FRANCISCOD-Orbit plans to transport satellites into six distinct orbits in addition to hosting three payloads on a June flight of the Italian firm’s In-Orbit Now (ION) Satellite Carrier.

Customers for the third ION mission, which D-Orbit calls Wild Ride, include Elecnor Deimos of Spain, Bulgaria’s EnduroSat and Kuwaiti Orbital Space.

In addition, Finland’s Reaktor Space, Marshall Intech Technology of the United Arab Emirates and the Royal Thai Airforce are integrating payloads in a QuadPack from ISISpace, the Dutch satellite manufacturer and space services firm.

“Besides the many technical advances, this mission marks a major milestone for us: an international collaboration involving companies and institutional organizations from 11 nations, the largest we have had so far,” D-Orbit CEO Luca Rossettini said in a statement. “This is a testament to how borderless the space ecosystem truly is. Its rapid expansion, and the global services it is creating, will substantially improve life on Earth and mark this new decade in ways that we can’t even imagine right now.”

During the first phase of the mission, D-Orbit plans to release seven satellites into various orbits by controlling the timing and speed of their release from ION. D-Orbit first demonstrated this commercial last-mile delivery service in October with 12 Planet SuperDove Earth-imaging satellites. In May, ION deployed 20 satellites during its second mission and performed maneuvers, proving it could change its altitude and inclination.

Once satellites on the upcoming Wild Ride mission are released, D-Orbit is prepared to turn on the hosted payloads. First up is LaserCube, an optical communications device from the Italian Stellar Project.

Next Nebula, an on-orbit cloud computing and data storage service developed by D-Orbit UK, will demonstrate artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques including video compression from London-based V-Nova. Nebula relies on Unibap’s SpaceCloud iX5-100 radiation tolerant computing module.

Worldfloods is another machine-learning payload to be hosted on ION. Developed by the Frontier Development Lab, a partnership led by Trillium Technologies with the University of Oxford and the European Space Agency, Worldfloods is designed to detect flooding and quickly transmit flood maps to emergency responders.

During the final phase of the Wild Ride mission, D-Orbit’s plans to deploy ADEO, a deorbit sail subsystem packed in a one-unit cubesat and designed to expand in orbit to 3.6 square meters. ADEO, which stands for Architectural Design and Testing of a De-orbiting Subsystem, is designed to increase drag and speed up ION’s atmospheric incineration.

Prior to atmospheric reentry, D-Orbit plans to conduct an experiment developed by the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, media artist Daniela de Paulis and Italy’s National Institute for Astrophysics. By transmitting simulated alien messages to radio telescopes around the world, SETI and its partners seek to gain insight into “the possibility to communicate with other kinds of life in the universe,” according to the D-Orbit news release.

D-Orbit mission controllers will manage the mission and operate payloads through Aurora, the company’s cloud-based mission control software suite.

“We are very excited about this mission; the great variety of payloads onboard, the purpose of their single missions, so many of which targeting sustainable purposes, innovative challenges and great technological advancements, make this mission quite unique,” Renato Panesi, D-Orbit chief commercial officer, said in a statement.

D-Orbit is not disclosing the launch vehicle to transport ION to sun synchronous orbit in June.

SpaceX plans to offer a dedicated rideshare mission, Transporter 2, to sun synchronous orbit in June.

D-Orbit plans to launch a fourth ION mission in the fourth quarter of 2021.