This article is a profile of satsearch member NanoAvionics, developed in collaboration with the company and featuring the insights of Vaida Karaliūnaitė, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).
NanoAvionics is a nanosatellite mission integrator headquartered in Columbia, Illinois, USA, and with facilities in North America, Northern Europe and the UK.
The company manufactures a range of nanosatellite buses with a standardized configuration suitable for a wide array of applications, along with many other in-house developed sub-systems.
In addition, as a full service mission integrator NanoAvionics offers a range of services to satellite developers and operators including development support, consultancy and a hosted payload flight solution.
Mission services include, for example, payload integration, performance testing, spacecraft registration and logistics, frequency allocation and payload on-orbit operations.
In this article we take a look at how NanoAvionics began, what products and services the company offers today, and its recent achievements.
We’ll also share some insights on the company’s exciting future plans and thoughts on the progress and evolution of the space sector in general.
The company’s origins
NanoAvionics was officially established as a business in 2014, but the company concept, and associated R&D activities, began in 2011 by a group of aerospace engineering students following an internship at NASA.
Those students contributed to the development of spacecraft propulsion technologies and led a project to launch the first Lithuanian satellite into space by using the cost-efficient CubeSat standard.
This work evolved into a national project involving more than 100 space technology enthusiasts, sponsors, and partners, including Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite who was an official supporter.
After the successful mission the natural next step for the team was to enter the developing nanosatellite market, bringing all of the knowledge and components developed throughout their project work to the commercial space sector. The company NanoAvionics was born in 2014.
NanoAvionics’ products and services
As a specialist nanosatellite technology manufacturer, and an established mission integrator, NanoAvionics has a wide array of commercially-available products and services.
This portfolio includes standardized buses in a range of CubeSat form factors, many in-house developed sub-systems, and a full spectrum of mission support services including launch brokerage, integration, flight readiness testing, logistics, satellite registration, mission operations and more.
The company has built bespoke facilities in all of the countries it operates to support day-to-day design and engineering activities including an ISO 7 class certified cleanroom with ISO 5 clean areas, thermal-vacuum chambers, and assembly and testing procedures that follow ESA’s standards.
The company’s products are flight-proven, space-qualified and 25 kRad tested. NanoAvionics also ensures that the long-term goal of mass production is embedded into all new designs.
Vertical integration and production principles taken from automotive and medical technology industries have helped NanoAvionics to develop products with competitive prices, short lead times, and high reliability. An overview of the company’s current commercial offer is included below:
With 80% of hardware and software remaining the same for each mission, the standardized buses are readily-available for a variety of missions.
A versatile, proven 1U bus with a standardized configuration that makes it suitable for commercial or emergency communication applications, as well as scientific missions.
Features: total mass of less than 1.3 kg, payload volume of up to 0.35U, and provided pre-integrated and pre-qualified, ready for payload integration.
A versatile, proven 2U bus with a standardized configuration that makes it suitable for commercial or emergency communication applications, as well as scientific missions.
Features: total mass of less than 2.4 kg, payload volume of up to 1U, and provided pre-integrated and pre-qualified, ready for payload integration.
A versatile, proven 3U bus with a standardized configuration that makes it suitable for commercial or emergency communication applications, as well as scientific missions.
Features: total mass of less than 2.5 kg, payload volume of up to 2U, and provided pre-integrated and pre-qualified, ready for payload integration.
A versatile, proven 6U bus with a standardized configuration that makes it suitable for commercial or emergency communication applications, as well as scientific missions.
Features: total mass of less than 4.5 – 5.5 kg, payload volume of up to 5U, and provided pre-integrated and pre-qualified, ready for payload integration.
A versatile, proven 12U bus with a standardized configuration that makes it suitable for commercial or emergency communication applications, as well as scientific missions.
Features: total mass of less than 5.5 – 6.5 kg, payload volume of up to 11U, and provided pre-integrated and pre-qualified, ready for payload integration.
A versatile, proven 16U bus with a standardized configuration that makes it suitable for commercial or emergency communication applications, as well as scientific missions.
Features: total mass of less than 8 kg, payload volume of up to 15U, and provided pre-integrated and pre-qualified, ready for payload integration.
A highly integrated small satellite main bus unit containing advanced functionality, tailored for small-sized spacecraft and complying with the CubeSat standard.
Features: an on-board flight computer (OBC), an attitude determination & control system (ADCS) and a redundant UHF communication system (COMM).
Antennas and radios
An antenna system consisting of 1 RF splitter and 4 monopole antennas. Providing an almost omnidirectional radiation pattern with no blind spots and fitting a 1U by 1U form factor.
Features: mass of 30 g, frequency of 350 — 500 MHz, RF power rating of 10 W and an operating temperature range of -40 — +85 ˚C.
An antenna system consisting of 1 RF splitter and 4 monopole antennas. Providing an almost omnidirectional radiation pattern with no blind spots and fitting a 1U by 2U form factor.
Features: mass of 51 g, frequency of 400 — 500 MHz, RF power rating of 10 W and an operating temperature range of -40 — +85 ˚C.
An antenna system consisting of 1 RF splitter and 4 monopole antennas. Providing an almost omnidirectional radiation pattern with no blind spots and fitting a 2U by 2U form factor.
Features: mass of 60 g, frequency of 400 — 455 MHz, RF power rating of 10 W and an operating temperature -40 — +85 ˚C.
UHF radios with a half-duplex architecture and low-power consumption transceivers.
Features: frequency ranges of 395-440 MHz and 430-440 MHz respectively, RF output power of up to 3 W and up to 2 W respectively, and designed for high operating efficiency.
Designed by NanoAvionics’ partner IQ Technologies for pico- and nanosatellite applications.
Features: circular polarization antenna that achieves high data rates and robust performance for satellite-to-ground communication.
A flexible, easy-to-use, modular nanosatellite structure compliant with the CubeSat Design Specification.
Features: an open structure, proven performance, avionics or payload modules are built up as single 1-unit form factor building blocks that are mounted onto the primary load carrying elements.
A solar array made of triple junction space grade solar cells designed for high power requirements. These solar cells contain by-pass diodes to protect the solar cell strings connected in series, from shadowing effects or from individual cell failure. Solar cells are assembled using NASA qualified low outgassing adhesive materials in cleanroom environment.
Features: achieves up to 29.5 % efficiency, includes triple junction GaInP/GaInAs/Ge epitaxial structure solar cells and an integrated cover glass for improved durability and radiation protection.
A magnetic torquer suitable for CubeSat de-tumbling and magnetic attitude control that can be easily installed in 1U, 2U, 3U or 6U satellites.
Features: mass of 31 g, typical voltage of 5 V, typical power consumption of 0.86 W and operating temperature range of -40 — +80 ˚C.
A set of two (X and Y-axis) magnetorquer rods and an air core Z-axis magnetorquer coil which are mounted on a PC/104 form factor PCB to enable nanosatellite attitude control.
Features: Suitable for CubeSat de-tumbling & magnetic attitude control, compatible with PC/104 form factor and most CubeSat structures, includes 3 separate 1.5 mm pitch PicoLock™ connectors for power input to each axis (connectors can be customized if required).
Additional satellite sub-systems and services
High-performance and environmentally-friendly propulsion systems for small satellites that are also compatible with CubeSats.
Features: modular design, efficient ADN-based monopropellant, and can be scaled for different satellite sizes.
Sub-systems designed to provide an efficient and versatile interface between the payload and bus.
Features: a CortexTM M7 core with a clock speed up to 400 MHz (configurable – 200 MHz typical), 1 MB of integrated RAM, 2 MB of integrated FLASH memory, and including multiple payload interfaces such as CAN, RS422, I2C etc.
A Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) power conditioning and distribution unit that is compatible with different size and configuration of solar panels without any additional hardware or software configurations
Features: up to 96% MPPT and output converter efficiency, 4 MPPT converters and 8 solar panel input channels, with wide range input voltage (2.6 – 18 V), and integrated ideal diodes that minimize the voltage drop to 20 mV.
A small satellite FM repeater that is fully pre-programmed and configured prior to shipment according to customer requirements.
Features: user’s voice message is recorded from .mp3 or .wav file as human voice, telegraph or any other legal sound format message, ability to share single VHF reception antenna with other receivers working on the similar band through passive electronic splitter circuit.
A dedicated rideshare mission including all service aspects typically associated with bus launch and operations including:
- Payload integration
- Performance testing
- Flight acceptance testing
- Spacecraft registration
- Launch and logistics
- Frequencies allocation
- Commissioning of the spacecraft
- Payload in-orbit operations for 12 months
- Secure data delivery to the customer
In recent years NanoAvionics has undergone a period of significant expansion. With 300% growth each year and recognition growing in the industry, the company has been able to develop its operations while also improving core products and processes.
This has led to opportunities to work with and supply missions for some of the most innovative organizations in the field including NASA, ESA, and MIT, as well as private sector clients including Thales Alenia Space, SEN, and Lacuna Space.
As Vaida Karaliūnaitė explains:
“Realizing that our assumptions about the direction of the market, our own growth predictions, and the strategic steps we have taken were all very closely aligned has made it clear we are on the right track!”
The future at NanoAvionics
With a solid foundation and growing reputation in the industry, the next phase in NanoAvionics’ progress as a technology manufacturer will be driven by client needs.
The company has been preparing all aspects of their manufacturing capabilities and commercial structures to grow with its clients.
As their partners reach the final phases of the development, and start launching constellations and full services, NanoAvionics will be able to proceed with serial manufacturing and smooth scaling up due to the product mass manufacturing philosophy they have embedded. As Vaida explains:
“By standardizing our technologies and focussing on vertical integration we have been preparing for a number of years to help our clients scale up rapidly.”
The future of the space industry
As the space industry continues to respond to the effects of the global Covid-19 pandemic while also experiencing growth and disruption across many countries around the world, there are several emerging drivers of expansion that are having an impact on commercial activity.
NanoAvionics has highlighted several trends that are all playing a role in the company’s future market strategies:
Specialization – the ability of companies to develop precision-engineered, space-qualified components and sub-systems, that are highly reliable yet versatile enough for modern missions and services, requires specialization in key areas.
Standardization – the development of modular products, constellations, and the emergence of industry standards for certain technologies (whether formalised or informally regarded as best practice) has driven a lot of innovation in recent years.
For some clients however it is a standardization of result or service quality that is primarily required, as opposed to standardization of technology. The scope of each project is usually highly specific and NanoAvionics has identified that more and more clients are looking for turnkey mission solutions, where NanoAvionics can take care of all aspects of the mission and the client simply receives the data they need.
Application of industrial principles – scaled up mission servicing and mass production will require new approaches to product development as discussed above. NanoAvionics hopes that its work in this area will stand the company in good stead moving forwards.
Consolidation of market players – finally, another trend that we may see in the forthcoming years is an increase in mergers and acquisitions activity as the industry grows. It will be really interesting to see which companies stay independent and which determine that they can have more of an impact by combining with other players.
Amid such changes and developments the satsearch team is very pleased to be working with NanoAvionics and we are looking forward to helping bring more of their hardware and expertise to the global marketplace.