ExoTrail wins contract to demonstrate orbital transfer for French agencies

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MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – French startup ExoTrail won a contract worth “several million euros” to perform an orbital logistics mission for French institutions.

Under the contract announced Oct. 11 and awarded through a competitive tender process, ExoTrail will demonstrate in 2024 that its orbital transfer vehicle, spacevan, can change a satellite’s altitude. Then in 2025, ExoTrail will perform an in-orbit delivery, moving a microsatellite from the point where a launch vehicle drops it off to its final orbital destination. Exotrail calls its orbital transfer service spacedrop.

Funding for the effort stems from the France 2030 investment plan unveiled in 2021 that included 1 billion euros ($969 million) for emerging French space companies.

“We are honored to have been selected as part of the ambitious France 2030 plan, aimed at building next space leaders,” ExoTrail CEO Jean-Luc Maria said in a statement. This contract rewards ExoTrail’s hardworking teams and the space logistics vision the company has pursued since its very foundation.”

ExoTrail plans to launch its first spacevan on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rideshare flight in October 2023. At the time, the company revealed plans for three additional spacevan flights in 2024 on various launch vehicles.

Exotrail intends to become “an end-to-end space mobility operator,” according to the news release.

In January, ExoTrail announced that its miniature Hall-effect thruster ignited in orbit to propel a NanoAvionics cubesat to change its semi-major axis by 700 meters. ExoTrail also offers mission, system design and constellation software. At least initially, spacevan will rely on the same Hall-effect propulsion.

Since the company was founded in 2017, ExoTrail has garnered more than 20 million euros through investment and grants.

Exotrail announced a contract in May with the Defence Innovation Agency, part of the French Ministry of Defence.