IAI and Effective Space – a company pioneering last mile logistics in space – today announced that they have signed a term sheet for cooperation, including both technological and financial partnerships.
Under the conditions of the term sheet, Effective Space will appoint IAI as the primary contractor of its SPACE DRONETM spacecraft, while IAI will work to complete the necessary approvals for equity investment in Effective Space.
The term sheet follows more than a year of cooperation, during which both companies have been jointly working on the SPACE DRONETM spacecraft design.
Effective Space is developing a unique, small spacecraft to extend the life of satellites in orbit, based on the vision to provide logistics services in the rapidly growing space economy.
To this end, it has developed a unique and patented technology for rendezvous and docking to satellites in space through a small spacecraft called SPACE DRONETM.
Effective Space is pioneering a new era in last-mile logistics in space that will see its SPACE DRONETM spacecraft fleet deployed to provide auxiliary services to space assets.
Initial services to be provided by Effective Space will be life-extension for satellites in Geosynchronous Earth Orbit.
The company’s first contract, signed in 2017 with an international satellite operator, will see two SPACE DRONETMspacecraft launched in 2020 to extend the life of two existing satellites, and is expected to generate revenues of more than US$100 million.
“This partnership is an excellent example of the added value in the connection between IAI – Israel’s largest aerospace company – with start-ups and the world of innovative technologies and business entrepreneurship,” said Nimrod Sheffer IAI’s CEO.
“IAI’s vast experience and its expertise in the development and manufacturing of small, light and fast satellites, and the innovative concept of Effective Space, has the potential for significant business activity.”
“IAI is globally recognised as a leader in the development and construction of commercial satellite technologies, and in particular, those with high performance and a small form factor,” said Arie Halsband, Founder and CEO, Effective Space.
“IAI’s intention to directly invest in Effective Space is a strong endorsement of our SPACE DRONETM programme and an indication of the potential return for investors from this new era of logistics in space and in-space robotics. For both strategic and growth investors, logistics in space is a new and exciting opportunity.”
The design of the SPACE DRONETM spacecraft is a result of decades of experience in the field of small satellites. ‘Phase One’ services will see the spacecraft dock with existing satellites in Geosynchronous Earth Orbit that are reaching the end of their normal life expectancy.
The SPACE DRONETM spacecraft will provide station-keeping and attitude-control, relocation, deorbiting, orbit and inclination correction, and is capable of providing up to 15 years of overall life-extension service.
Logistics in space is a rapidly developing market and further services will see platform adaptations to support the evolving low-earth-orbit and medium-earth-orbit constellations, as well as active-debris-removal and in-space explorations, mining and manufacturing logistics.
To meet the expected market opportunity, Effective Space ultimately anticipates a fleet of several dozen SPACE DRONETM spacecraft to be launched and operated.
Effective Space, founded in 2013, has raised US$15 million from investment funds in previous rounds of financing.
The Space Drone Spacecraft
The Space Drone is a small spacecraft that provides propulsion to a satellite just before it runs out of fuel, thus extending its service far beyond its designated lifespan.
Unlike the host satellite that uses chemical propulsion such as hydrazine or bi-propellant, the 400 kg Space Drone is propelled by electric propulsion.
These thrusters that use Xenon gas, are 10-15 times more energy efficient than chemical propellants. The spider-shaped drone is equipped with ‘thruster arms’ that are flexibly manipulated to achieve the most efficient maneuver much larger satellites.
The company’s first contract, signed in 2017 with an international satellite operator, will see two Space Drone spacecraft launched in 2020 on a Russian Khrunichev Proton launcher. They will extend the life of two target satellites and are expected to generate revenues of more than US$100 million.
The two satellites will ride-share with another customer on that mission. According to Halsband, Effective Space hopes to launch up multiple satellite drones on each mission, deploying dozens of satellites in orbit as the demand for such services grows. Each drone will have a service life of 15 years.
The drone uses non-intrusive docking, employing the same interface used to carry the satellite to orbit. Initial services will see the drone spacecraft dock with existing satellites in Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) before they reach the end of their normal life expectancy.
Ambitious Future Plans
The first-generation Space Drones to be launched in 2020 will be dedicated to a single satellite and maintain it for years, Halsband said.
It will support all functions the original propulsion would perform, including station-keeping and attitude-control, relocation, orbit and inclination correction, de-orbiting and ‘bringing into use’ (BIU).
In case of the host satellite malfunction, for reasons other than propulsion, the drone will be able to position it on a self-destruct course or move it to a ‘graveyard orbit’ at a higher altitude.
In the future, the drone spacecraft will assume gradually more complex services.
They will support satellites in Medium and Low-Earth Orbits (MEO-LEO) and perform more complex missions. Such missions could include Active Debris Removal (ADR), in-space exploration, and even in space manufacturing and asteroid mining logistics.