WASHINGTON — Loft Orbital, a startup that raised $3.2 million last year to run a satellite fleet for people who want to put payloads in space but not operate them, has announced a team of 21 partners to build, launch and communicate with its future spacecraft.
Loft Orbital estimates it can get a customer payload on a satellite and in orbit within 12 to 18 months of a request thanks to its network of “inSpace” mission partners, which includes manufacturer Space Systems Loral, launch provider Rocket Lab, and 19 others spanning from ground segment operations to launch to data analytics.
Pierre-Damien Vaujour, Loft Orbital co-founder and head of product, told SpaceNews that the company has designed hardware and software to enable plug-and-play interoperability for sensors, cameras and other payloads, allowing for quicker mission timelines.
Loft Orbital intends to announce its first missions in the coming months, he said.
Based in San Francisco, Loft Orbital plans to operate a constellation of small “condosat” satellites between 50 and 150 kilograms, that carry multiple payloads from customers who don’t want to become satellite operators. Along with spacecraft construction and launch, Loft Orbital handles insurance, satellite operations, licensing and other details associated with each mission.
Vaujour said part of the reason for having such a wide range of suppliers is to offer condosat missions entirely with U.S. providers as well as entirely non-U.S. options. U.S. export-control regulations that treat and customer preference among Loft Orbital’s early buyers necessitated having several foreign partners, he said.
Loft Orbital is still finalizing compatibility of its hardware and software interfaces with all its partners. Vaujour said the company’s “Payload Hub” hardware interface and “Cockpit” software interface are fully validated with two satellite bus providers, and a third is nearly complete.
“We know we are compatible with them, we just haven’t done the testing with the last few ones yet,” he said.
Vaujour said increased standardization of satellite buses larger than cubesats is making faster missions possible for other types of smallsats. Loft Orbital intends to add more partners over the course of time, he said.
Loft Orbital’s partners by category:
- Space Systems Loral
- Satrec Initiative
- Blue Canyon Technologies
- ECM Launch Services
- Spaceflight Industries
- Rocket Lab
- Vector Launch
- Firefly Aerospace
Ground Segment Services:
- Kongsberg Satellite Services
- Swedish Space Corporation
- Media Lario
- Orbital Insight