Tyvak satellite on SpaceX rideshare mission carries tiny space telescope

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Tyvak-0130 is a 6U cubesat about the size of a large shoebox weighing just 25 pounds

WASHINGTON — The Tyvak-0130 rideshare payload that flew to orbit May 15 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 carries a miniature space telescope for possible commercial use. 

The technology was developed by Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory under a four-year agreement to advance compact telescopes for commercial applications, Tyvak’s CEO Christian “Boris” Becker said in an interview with SpaceNews.

Becker, a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral, was recently named chief executive of Tyvak, a satellite manufacturer in Irvine, California, owned by Terran Orbital. 

The space telescope reached orbit successfully but the company has not yet completed the checkout of the satellite, Becker said. The plan is to test the optical imaging payload and then decide if remote sensing services can be made available to customers, he said.

This is the third mini-telescope deployed by Tyvak since 2018. Becker said the company wants to pave the way for commercial space situational awareness services.

Tyvak 6U cubesat

Tyvak-0130 is a 6U cubesat about the size of a large shoebox weighing just 25 pounds

Becker said Lawrence Livermore has “tremendous depth and expertise in imaging capabilities.” The lab has developed mini-telescopes that range in size from one inch to 14 inches.

Tyvak is studying options to commercialize the lab’s space telescope technology, Becker said. “We’ll see where this takes us. We’ve got work ahead of us to make sure that all the systems are operating as they should.”

As incoming CEO, Becker said he sees growing opportunities for Tyvak’s small satellite buses. The company supplies buses to sister company PredaSAR which plans to deploy a constellation of synthetic aperture radar imaging satellites. 

Tyvak also is supplying buses to Lockheed Martin, which last year won a contract from the Pentagon’s Space Development Agency to provide 10 communications satellites. Becker said SDA will be an important customer for commercial space suppliers because it is “changing the way we acquire space systems in the Defense Department.”

Two cubesats built by Tyvak were launched in March by Rocket Lab for two separate Australian companies developing internet-of-things satellite constellations: Myriota 7 for Myriota and Centauri 3 for Fleet.