Sidus Space could launch LizzieSat-1 without thrusters

by

LOGAN, Utah — Sidus Space could launch LizzieSat-1 without thrusters if it can’t get safety clearances in time to deploy its first satellite from the International Space Station early next year.

It is unclear if Sidus can get all NASA approvals to add operational-life-extending thrusters to LizzieSat-1 for a cargo trip to the ISS in February, Sidus chief mission operations officer John Curry said Aug. 8 during the Small Satellite Conference here.

“It’s possible we may end up deciding not to fly the thruster,” Curry said Aug. 8 during the Small Satellite Conference here, so that it can “just get through the safety process and go ahead and fly.

“It’s not that we can’t get past that, but it takes a long time.”

LizzieSat-1 was previously slated to launch on a mission to the ISS in October before NASA re-manifested it to February.

While Sidus still plans to launch LizzieSat-1 from the ISS, the company’s flexible deployment capabilities also enable it to leverage rideshare opportunities.

LizzieSat-1 is the first of 100 satellites Sidus is planning for a constellation that would initially provide in-orbit testing services.

The 100-kilogram spacecraft had been set to use a deployer on the ISS that Sidus manages as part of its existing government contractor business.

If deployed from the ISS without thrusters, Curry said LizzieSat-1 would only provide services for around 130-200 days before losing operational altitude. 

While that would still be enough time to demonstrate core technology, he said its satellites with thrusters could last 18 months to three years, depending on mission requirements. 

LizzieSat-1’s customers include NASA and Mission Helios, a financial services startup that aims to test technology for NFTs.

Curry said that these and other future customers don’t care about the length of time they spend on orbit, and a LizzieSat without thrusters has more room for payloads.

However, a LizzieSat with thrusters is the standard design for the company’s constellation and would enable more control over the satellite’s de-orbit trajectory.

While a rideshare launch would likely come after the Feb. 19 ISS Cargo mission Sidus is currently targeting, getting to LEO on a rocket would likely deliver the satellite to orbit faster than via the ISS, where Curry said it would take astronauts 30-60 days to deploy the spacecraft once it arrived on the station.

For an ISS launch, he said NASA also requires delivery of a “fully outfitted” satellite 10 and a half weeks before launch, compared to four weeks for a rideshare mission.

That means using rideshare providers for future satellites would give customers more time to provide the payloads they want to test on LizzieSat satellites. It would also guard against the possibility of supply chain delays.

Sidus is negotiating with “a number of different providers” for launching other LizzieSats later in 2023