NSLComm sent its first satellite NSLSat-1 into orbit in July on a Russian Soyuz rocket. The satellite, built by AAC Clyde, deployed a flexible 60-centimeter dish antenna designed for high throughput communications. Credit: NSLComm

WASHINGTON – NSLComm, an Israeli startup that launched its first cubesat in July, is building two more cubesats with funding from customers including a major multinational corporation.

“We have a working satellite in orbit with more than 90 percent success of the mission goals,” Raz Itzhaki, NSLComm CEO and co-founder, told SpaceNews. “The satellite is communicating at all frequencies: UHV, VHF, S-band and Ka-band. But still we think we can do better.”

NSLComm developed a flexible, expandable dish antenna for NSLSat-1, a six-unit cubesat launched in July on a Russian Soyuz rocket. With the antenna and advanced electronics, NSLComm plans to offer customers one gigabit per second communications from nanosatellites.

To reach that goal, NSLComm packed NSLSat-1 with a Ka-band antenna that expands to 60 centimeters, an adaptive sub-reflector to control the communications footprint, an onboard photogrammetry system to measure and map the reflector, and a high throughput transponder.

“All the electronic systems are working without any problem,” Itzhaki said. “The main reflector was deployed but it is not exactly at the position we wanted it to be. We are currently building a second satellite that is improving the deployment system.”

Based on lessons learned from NSLSat-1, NSLComm is modifying the design for its next two satellites, including NSLSat-2, which the company plans to launch in six months. Both satellites are fully funded, Itzhaki said.

“As a part of the New Space industry I see no reason why I am replacing my laptop every two years but a satellite is replaced every six years,” Itzhaki said. “We constantly improve, launch test, improve launch test.”

In September, NSLComm issued a news release, announcing a “multimillion dollar contract with a major multinational corporation.” Company officials declined to disclose the value of the contract or name the customer.

“I cannot convey details but [the contract] proves that what we do is in demand in this market and that we are positively contributing to the ecosystem,” Itzhaki said. “NSLComm is bringing nanosatellites from testbeds and technology demonstrations to something that has real capabilities to be part of a communications constellation and bring down the cost of communications to a level where satellite communications will eventually be able to compete with fiber and radio frequency communications terrestrially.”

Swissto12, a company that specializes in additive manufacturing telecommunications equipment for aerospace customers, announced early this month successful commissioning of the Ka-band antenna feeder assembly it printed for NSLSat-1.

For Swissto12, the NSLSat-1 order was a challenge.

“We were essentially producing a payload antenna that normally fits onto a [satellite] of more than 100 kilograms” to fit on a six-unit cubesat, Swissto12 CEO Emile de Rijk, said by email

“Additive manufacturing provides a unique opportunity for the next-generation communication payloads onboard satellites. The technology also brings new design and manufacturing challenges that SWISSto12 is mastering after several years of development.”

Swissto12 is working with several satellite prime contractors who are preparing to launch multiple advanced antennas or signal interconnect systems in low Earth and geostationary orbits in 2019, de Rijk added.

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...