TAMPA, Fla. — LeoStella announced details about its largest spacecraft yet Aug. 6 with plans to deliver its first two 500-kilogram-class satellites to a commercial radar constellation customer next summer.
The company’s LS300 satellite bus can reach the length of a small yacht at 10 meters across and has more than double the mass of its LS200 predecessor, which part-owner BlackSky is using for its upcoming third-generation geospatial intelligence satellites.
LS300 is also designed with solar array improvements for delivering one kilowatt of power, 25 times more than LS200 to perform more demanding missions.
This power boost and LS300’s 250 kilograms of available payload space make it better suited for customers chasing Space Development Agency (SDA) contracts, LeoStella CEO Tim Kienberger said in an interview.
He said LS300 can accommodate optical inter-satellite links and the radio frequency downlink and uplink capabilities that SDA, a U.S. Space Force organization, has identified as key capabilities as it plots a large military network in low Earth orbit.
Other than BlackSky, which jointly owns the five-year-old manufacturer with Thales Alenia Space, the only other customer LeoStella has announced for any of its buses to date is condosat operator Loft Orbital, which chose LeoStella’s 60-kilogram LS100 bus.
Of the 19 LeoStella satellite buses currently in LEO, 16 were built for BlackSky and three were for Loft Orbital.
While Kienberger declined to disclose LS300’s first customer, he said interest is high for the larger offering, and “almost every opportunity we talk about seems to be LS300 platform based.”
He said LS300 could also pave the way to building its first satellites dedicated to the communications market.
LS300’s increase in power, enabled by solar panels that can spend more time facing the sun by protruding from the satellite instead of covering its surface, would give the spacecraft more on-orbit processing and data storage capabilities.
LeoStella is not the only small satellite specialist moving toward larger spacecraft that can take advantage of declining launch costs, and the increasing availability of rocket rideshares, to meet demand for increasingly capable satellites.
Other smallsat specialists, including Terran Orbital and NanoAvionics, have also been gradually increasing the size of their platforms after initially focusing on the smaller end of the smallsat market.
The largest satellite Terran Orbital currently has under construction is 800 kilograms, CEO Marc Bell said, after gradually expanding its offering since starting out a decade ago with cubesats less than 1.33 kilograms.
NanoAvionics recently started producing satellites with a total mass of around 220 kilograms, nearly double its MP42 platform that gained flight heritage April 2022 to mark the company’s expansion out of the 10-kilogram-and-under nanosatellite class.