BREMEN, Germany — Spire Global has unveiled a new-generation satellite bus to meet demand for larger and more capable satellites.

The 16U platform was announced at the Space Tech Expo Europe in Bremen, Germany, Nov. 15. It is focused on meeting demands of Earth observation and space domain awareness customers with missions that require larger payloads and more power, volume, and data capabilities than a conventional 16U, according to Spire.

“Increasingly we’re seeing that our customers’ missions require buses that offer the performance of a larger satellite with the agility of a nanosatellite,” Joel Spark, Co-Founder and General Manager, Space Services at Spire, said in a statement

“We’ve leveraged our extensive space heritage and experience in satellite design and manufacturing to build a one-of-a-kind satellite bus that checks all those boxes. Our next-gen satellite has been a natural next step for us, driven by the needs of the market.”

A custom launch deployer for the new satellite bus, the EXOpod Nova deployer, has been developed in partnership between Exolaunch and Spire. Spire says the deployer has enabled the company to optimize the capacity and volume of the satellite while still fitting into standard deployment settings, adding that the 16U satellite can accommodate payloads of up to 30 kilograms.

The new satellite bus has a 12U payload volume and has a satellite design life of 3-5 years. It features electric propulsion as with smaller Spire buses. Spire has earlier worked with ThrustMe and Morpheus space for on-board propulsion.

Spire will launch its first 16U satellites to orbit, carrying payloads for Canadian companies  NorthStar Earth & Space, focusing on space situational awareness, and GHGSat, for its greenhouse gas emissions monitoring constellation, in 2023. The satellite carrying NorthStar’s payload will be launched by Virgin Orbit in mid-2023.

Beyond this, Spire is considering new future developments. “We will continue to explore building new and novel satellite form factors as the industry evolves and we see the market demand for it,” Kristina Spychalski, senior communications manager, told SpaceNews.

Spire designs and builds its satellites at its manufacturing facility in Glasgow in the United Kingdom. 

“This is an exciting time for the space sector in Scotland. Businesses such as Spire Global are delivering innovative new satellites, helping to position Scotland as a global leader for commercial space developments gaining a £1 billion share of the global space market,” Scottish Government Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, Ivan McKee, said in a statement. 

Andrew Jones covers China's space industry for SpaceNews. Andrew has previously lived in China and reported from major space conferences there. Based in Helsinki, Finland, he has written for National Geographic, New Scientist, Smithsonian Magazine, Sky...