French component suppliers demo constellation hardware with ANGELS cubesat

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WASHINGTON — A cubesat launched Dec. 18 is testing hardware from French component makers jockeying for smallsat constellation work.

ANGELS, the Argos Néo on a Generic Economical and Light Satellite, is a 12-unit cubesat built entirely with French components. The 25-kilogram spacecraft, financed by the French space agency CNES and French smallsat builder Hemeria, launched on an Arianespace Soyuz Dec. 18 with an Italian radar reconnaissance satellite and the European exoplanet-hunting telescope CHEOPS. ANGELS, one of three cubesats onboard the launch, carries a payload that collects low-power signals from maritime beacons. 

French component suppliers are using ANGELS to space-qualify new technology. While several suppliers have already contributed to other satellite programs, ANGELS is the culmination of a collective push by 12 companies to export French components globally. 

Five of the 12 companies in a group branded as the “NewSpace Factory” contributed to the ANGELS mission. 

“This is the first time they are working together on a single mission,” Gregory Pradels, executive manager of the NewSpace Factory, said in an interview. “This is the launch of the French NewSpace offer in terms of equipment.”

For ANGELS, French company Erems provided a radiation-hardened power conditioning and distribution unit, plus power-optimization software; CS Group supplied the ground controls; Hemeria built the satellite; and startup Anywaves provided its first S-band antennas for telemetry, tracking and command, with help from Mecano ID, which also conducted environmental testing of the satellite. 

“With ANGELs these companies are qualifying their equipment in space,” Pradels said. 

CNES said it contributed technology and five staff to the production of ANGELS. Radiofrequency specialist Syrlinks and and satellite manufacturer Thales Alenia Space built the Internet of Things communications payload with help from CNES. 

Several companies in the NewSpace Factory are poised to supply parts to Kineis, a French company preparing a constellation of 25 satellites to link Internet of Things devices. Kineis has added ANGELS to its current constellation, the rest of which are all hosted payloads on other satellites. 

Pradels said some NewSpace Factory companies, such as Erems and GNSS equipment builder Syntony, are already suppliers to OneWeb. Other members are hoping their participation in ANGELS will win them similar business, even if on a smaller scale. 

“For constellations with 20, 30 or 50 satellites, indeed NewSpace factory is a good fit,” Pradels said. “We have many discussions on that front.”

Pradels said NewSpace Factory members also contributed to EyeSat, a cubesat telescope CNES built with university students to take images of the Milky Way. Syrlinks is not part of the NewSpace Factory but also supplied communications equipment for ANGELS, EyeSat and ESA’s OPS-SAT cubesat. All three launched as secondary payloads on Arianespace’s Soyuz mission with the Italian government’s Cosmo-SkyMed radar satellite and the European Space Agency’s CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite (CHEOPS) mission.