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NanoAvionics prepares to manufacture cubesats in Midland

The funding will support a precursor mission of two to three satellites that would precede a constellation of between 20 and 70. Credit: NanoAvionics.

LOGAN, Utah – NanoAvionics isn’t ready to disclose names but the company has lined up customers for the first nanosatellites it plans to build in Midland, Texas, NanoAvionics CEO Vytenis Buzas, told SpaceNews.

NanoAvionics, a spinoff of Lithuania’s Vilnius University with about 80 employees conducting research and development in northern and western Europe, is preparing to move a significant portion of its research, development and manufacturing activities to the United States in the next year. NanoAvionics’ parent company, Avellan Space Technology & Science, is refurbishing the Midland manufacturing plant that previously housed XCOR Aerospace.

“We’ve been looking for a model to enter the U.S. market for years,” Buzas said.

In July, NanoAvionics hired F. Brent Abbott, a veteran of Atlas Space Operations, ÅAC Microtec U.S. and Surrey Satellite Technology U.S. as its new NanoAvionics North America CEO. “This is my third time bringing a European company into the U.S. market,” Abbott told SpaceNews at the Small Satellite Conference here.

NanoAvionics is eager to enter the U.S. market because about 50% of the global demand for small satellites comes from U.S. customers. In addition, some U.S. government customers are required to buy satellites manufactured in the United States.

The Midland facility will manufacture satellites for the U.S. market. It also could produce satellites for any European customers who need high volume production, Abbott said. However, the company will not be able to export some of the technology it develops for the U.S. market, he added.

In the competitive small satellite market, NanoAvionics is growing rapidly. In the last year, the company has doubled its staff and revenues jumped four or fivefold, Buzas said.

In June, NanoAvionics, Norway’s Kongsberg Satellite Services and Antwerp Space of Belgium announced they raised 10 million euros ($11.23 million) for an on-orbit demonstration of an Internet-of-Things satellite constellation.

NanoAvionics executives say the firm will offer the lowest price on radiation tolerant six and 12-unit cubesats. The satellites are built and tested for orbital lifespans of five years. With redundant systems, the satellites could last 10 years, Abbott said. NanoAvionics does not publicly share spacecraft prices.

In April, two firms building Internet-of-Things constellations, Blink Astro of Atlanta and Lacuna Space of the United Kingdom, launched payloads on NanoAvionics’ M6P nanosatellite buses. Lacuna Space announced an agreement in July to purchase another NanoAvionics M6P nanosatellite bus, which it plans to launch in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...