An OrbAstro rendering of its ORB-12 platform. Credit: OrbAstro

SAN FRANCISCO – Xplore announced a contract Jan. 25 to purchase nanosatellites from Orbital Astronautics Ltd. for a variety of Earth-observation and astronomical missions.

“Xplore is laser-focused on gathering data from space for our customers,” Lisa Rich, Xplore founder and chief operating officer, told SpaceNews by email. “OrbAstro’s buses allow us to quickly fly a small number of high performance sensors at low cost.”

Xplore is best known for its plans to develop Xcraft, a multi-mission ESPA-class spacecraft. (ESPA is a secondary payload adapter.) While that work continues, the Redmond, Washington, company is preparing to launch a suite of sensors on an OrbAstro nanosatellite later this year.

“The first [OrbAstro] mission and the Xcraft program are highly complementary,” Rich said. “We’re deploying operational sensors using the OrbAstro bus in advance of the Xcraft mission.”

The Xcraft, which is roughly 10 times the size of OrbAstro nanosatellites, will carry larger and more diverse sensor suites, Rich added.

OrbAstro, a startup based in the United Kingdom and New Zealand, manufactures nanosatellites and provides in-orbit services.

“OrbAstro’s turnkey solution enables Xplore to run missions that prove out operations, data acquisition capabilities and customer integration functions,” Rich said in a statement. “We embrace suppliers and partners capable of moving at the speed of business, as they accelerate our ability to rapidly deliver high-value data to our customers.”

Xplore intends to mount multiple instruments on OrbAstro nanosatellites. The first mission is scheduled to launch in late 2022.

“Through working very closely with the Xplore team, we were able to quickly create an affordable solution for highly demanding mission parameters,” OrbAstro CEO Ash Dove-Jay said in a statement.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...