SAN FRANCISCO – Morpheus Space is going far beyond its roots as a German university spinoff with a series of announcements the company is releasing ahead of the Space Tech Expo next week in Bremen, Germany.
Morpheus, a German propulsion startup that opened an office in Los Angeles earlier this year, unveiled a suite of products, called the Sphere ecosystem, that are designed to work together to reduce the cost and complexity of satellite constellation operations.
The Sphere line includes a new nontoxic propellant, plug-and-play autopilot, space mission software and a web application to help customers view and buy the new products.
“We want to make space accessible to a broad audience,” Daniel Bock, Morpheus CEO and co-founder, told SpaceNews. “We want to come away from having only an exclusive, high-tech circle of people that understand space to a more application-oriented usage of space.”
Morpheus attracted investment and high-profile backers in 2020 after proving that its Nano Field Effect Electric Propulsion or NanoFEEP thrusters, could propel cubesats in orbit. Morpheus also sells MultiFEEP, a thruster that combines seven NanoFEEP thrusters with additional features for thrust vectoring.
Propulsion systems remain the core of Morpheus’ business, but rather than simply selling components, the company developed a line of products and services to simplify the task of selecting, paying for and using thrusters.
The products Morpheus announced Nov. 11 are:
- Sphere Go: MultiFEEP and NanoFEEP electric propulsion systems;
- Sphere Direct: Plug-and-play, platform-agnostic autopilot;
- Sphere Flow: Mission design software-as-a-service for constellations;
- Sphere Safe: A hardware-as-a-service cost model for satellite components; and
- Sphere Gateway: A web application to help guide customers from initial product exposure to satellite operations.
Morpheus’s new proprietary metal alloy propellant for MultiFEEP and NanoFEEP is non-toxic, non-corrosive, requires no special transportation or handling and is designed to provide satellites with continuous thrust for more than five years, Bock said. Because few satellites in low Earth orbit need that much thrust, Morpheus has developed a cost model to ensure customers pay only $1,000 per propulsion module.
“This is the upfront cost,” said István Lőrincz, Morpheus co-founder and president. “Then you can either pay on demand for usage of the propulsion system or you can go into the subscription model where you basically get a budget for propellant or movability for a certain time.”
Lőrincz compares it to a mobile phone contract that provides a certain level of data throughput.
After extensive work to come up with the subscription model, Morpheus is inviting other satellite component manufacturers to adopt it as well.
“The upside here for our customers is the lower upfront costs and the shift in mentality,” Lőrincz said. “Propulsion is not a feature or an extra. It’s something that has to contribute to the company’s bottom line, like ground stations. If you didn’t have ground stations, you wouldn’t be able to generate profits.”
Morpheus developed its Sphere ecosystem after meeting with satellite constellation developers to understand their needs.
“We saw that different constellation providers were doing similar things but with different approaches,” Lőrincz said. “We wanted to take off that burden. We need more automation in this industry to make it more accessible to everyone.”