TAMPA, Fla. — German startup Vyoma has ordered two pilot satellites for its proposed space debris-monitoring constellation from EnduroSat, the eight-year-old Bulgarian cubesat specialist.
Luisa Buinhas, Vyoma co-founder and chief product officer, said Aug. 9 the spacecraft’s technical details are confidential but they would be based on a microsatellite platform between 50-500 kilograms.
The plan is to launch the satellites to low Earth orbit (LEO) around the end of 2024 and Vyoma expects to announce a launch provider soon.
The satellites would use optical telescopes to track and catalog LEO objects larger than 10 centimeters, supplementing the space situational awareness (SSA) data Vyoma provides from third-party networks of ground-based sensors.
These ground telescopes can observe LEO objects down to around six centimeters via dedicated tracking, depending on their position and under clear atmospheric conditions.
However, Vyoma ultimately plans to keep tabs on objects as small as one centimeter, which currently cannot be tracked in LEO, by using satellites unaffected by Earth’s weather and able to work in a semi-autonomous surveillance mode.
While the contract with EnduroSat only covers two spacecraft, Buinhas said three-year-old Vyoma aims to have a constellation of 12 satellites by 2026 under a phased deployment approach starting next year.
The venture has raised more than 10 million euros ($11 million) for its plans, including an 8.5 million euro funding round announced in June that French aerospace giant Safran joined.
As part of the investment, Safran’s electronics and defense subsidiary is looking into adding radiofrequency sensors and complementary optical telescopes to the constellation to improve its capabilities.
EnduroSat deployed its first satellite in 2018 and says it has delivered more than 50 spacecraft to date.
The Bulgarian manufacturer also recently raised $10 million in a Series A investment round to expand its operations globally.
Similar to other small satellite specialists, EnduroSat offers a space-as-a-service business where it operates spacecraft on behalf of customers and their payloads.
Vyoma declined to comment on whether it plans to use this arrangement from EnduroSat.
Alexandria, Virginia-based Scout Space, Canada’s NorthStar Earth and Space, and Digantara have also recently announced early-stage funds for satellites promising to improve SSA in increasingly crowded orbits.