Image of the Nile River captured by a York Space Systems S-Class satellite. Credit: York Space Systems

SAN FRANCISCO – York Space Systems announced plans Jan. 7 to conduct a series of missions to rapidly flight qualify government and industry satellite payloads, subsystems and components. York’s first flight in the new Hydra Mission Series is scheduled to launch in December 2020.

“We want to leverage our open, adaptable spacecraft bus architecture to help the U.S. government and industry accelerate the pace of space development by allowing folks to put new designs for payloads or components up and get flight heritage,” Melanie Preisser, York’s vice president of national systems, told SpaceNews.

York launched its first S-Class satellite in May on a Rocket Lab Electron flight. York announced plans in October to expand its facilities in Denver to meet growing demand for small satellites.

York created the Hydra Mission Series because “we’ve got this flight proven spacecraft bus and this very adaptable architecture that can accommodate lots of different payloads,” Preisser said. “We see demand not only for flight opportunities for components, payloads and subsystems, but also for small satellites in general. We intend to be able to build 50-plus satellites to meet the demand that we’re seeing by the end of the year.”

York customers have expressed strong interest in the Hydra series. The first Hydra mission, scheduled to launch in December, is “fully subscribed with multiple customers,” according to the Jan. 7 news release. Demand is likely to be strong enough to launch a second Hydra mission approximately three months later, Preisser said.

York plans to manage spacecraft integration, environmental testing, launch procurement, ground systems, mission operations, licensing and insurance for Hydra missions. Customers can claim the entire payload allocation for $3 million or a fraction of the flight volume for as little as $300,000, according to the news release.

Hydra missions are designed for rapid turnaround times. Customers will be able to send payloads into orbit as soon as three months after delivering hardware to York, Preisser said.

Customers “will receive completely confidential encrypted data from the Hydra series satellites on-orbit automatically,” the news release said. “An added benefit to the program is the Hydra Flat-Sat software, a development tool that further streamlines payload integration and responsive access to space.”

York’s Hydra series is designed to strengthen the U.S. space infrastructure, said Preisser, a former U.S. Air Force officer who oversaw various space and intelligence programs at the Pentagon and Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center.

“One of the things that we want to do is help the U.S. to leverage the emerging commercial industry here and help the U.S. remain strong in space,” Preisser said.

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...