2015.B.1.1. Cost-Effective, Frequent, Reliable CubeSat Access to GTO/GEO


Alfred Tadros (1)
Laurie Chappell (1)
Dan King (2)

  1. Space Systems/Loral, USA
  2. MDA, Canada




Access to Space, Rideshare, GEO, GTO, launch, secondary, PODS, escape


SSL’s Payload Orbital Delivery System (PODS) relieves one of the existing bottlenecks faced by many Interplanetary CubeSat missions – cost-effective access to space. SSL offers frequent, cost-effective SmallSat access to Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) or Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) by leveraging our ~6 commercial GEO communication satellite launches each year. Our first PODS launch is set for March 2017 with frequent opportunities to follow.

Although CubeSat rideshare opportunities to earth escape and beyond currently exist, they are few and far between and are typically awarded using a highly-competitive selection process. Other launch methods require schedule and funding coordination between several separate missions to secure a launch, making it very difficult to realize a definitive launch date. Not only does the SSL PODS offer frequent launch opportunities, it also offers a reliable launch date that is tied to a commercial contract. The benefit of this is that the CubeSat developer will not experience recurrent and potentially lengthy launch date slips.

Another benefit of PODS is that it is well-suited to launching CubeSat constellations. Constellations are often an attractive CubeSat mission concept for interplanetary exploration because of the range of coverage that can be achieved for a relatively low price. With 90kg available on a “standard PODS” launch and 150kg available on an “extended PODS” launch, a constellation of CubeSats can either be launched together, or the constellation can be launched in a step-wise fashion, taking advantage of the ~6 launch opportunities per year.

Another bottleneck often encountered by the Interplanetary CubeSat community is the availability of spacecraft components that are designed to survive beyond a brief time in LEO. SSL has over 50 years of experience designing satellites that operate beyond Low Earth Orbit. Our PODS-compatible SmallSat bus provides a turn-key solution for organizations that want to focus on their mission payload instead of spending resources designing a deep-space compatible bus from scratch.

In summary, the SSL Payload Orbital Delivery System offers the benefit of frequent, cost-effective, reliable, and potentially turnkey, access to space that can enable a wide range of Interplanetary CubeSat missions.


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