Orbital Sidekick / Astro Digital

Launching a Hyperspectral Imaging Payload

Orbital Sidekick (OSK) is preparing to launch its first hyperspectral imaging payload. Deploying on a satellite that the company named Aurora, this sensor will play an important role in the company’s mission to establish a space-based infrastructure of hyperspectral sensors to provide global monitoring services and solutions to the energy sector and beyond.

OSK’s analytics platform and proprietary hyperspectral payload architecture provide space-based monitoring solutions powered by Spectral Intelligence™. While current remote sensing technology can provide an image of a pipeline, OSK’s Spectral Intelligence can indicate if a pipeline is leaking and what is leaking. This level of observation is unmatched and provides a considerably more sensitive monitoring capability to detect chemical changes than current systems allow.

Eager to begin executing its mission, OSK set a remarkable and aggressive timeline to construct and launch its first satellite within six months – an impressive feat. To support this ambitious timeline, the company turned to two innovative industry pioneers, Astro Digital and Spaceflight Inc.

Astro Digital’s innovative approach to full constellation deployment dramatically reduces speed to space. With innovative frameworks and mission-proven experience, Astro Digital removes the primary barriers in any space mission, including high cost, long schedules and significant risk. From time-critical proof-of-concept to constellation deployment, Astro Digital provides a comprehensive building block approach – a modular platform of satellite technology infrastructure to achieve mission goals in the shortest timeframe possible.

With Astro Digital’s support on the development of the satellite and OSK focused on the development of the payload, the two companies next needed to identify a partner to get to orbit.

OSK knew what was required for this launch: speed and flexibility. Given its timeline, OSK tasked Astro Digital with identifying the right mission while preserving flexibility that would enable the team to adapt should the mission schedule require change. Spaceflight Inc. was the clear launch partner.

Spaceflight’s partnerships with a variety of launch vehicle providers offered OSK the ability to move to another mission, mitigating one of the risks associated with pursuing such an aggressive timeline.

“Spaceflight’s unique ability to offer flexibility and launch expertise made them the obvious partner for this mission,” said Chris Biddy, CEO and co-founder of Astro Digital. “Given the timeline of this launch, we knew we needed two important qualities: expertise and flexibility. Spaceflight is intimately familiar with all launch vehicles on the market and would be able to select the right mission for OSK. Additionally, having a ‘backup plan’ through the flexibility Spaceflight offers ensured that OSK would be able to get to orbit in a timely manner.”

OSK’s first satellite is scheduled to launch on Spaceflight’s SXRS-5 mission (SpaceX’s Transporter-2) aboard one of Spaceflight’s Sherpa vehicles, which added a big advantage to the mission: rapid licensing! The biggest inhibitor of a fast mission timeline is often the ability to secure timely licensing. Because OSK would launch from one of Spaceflight’s Sherpa vehicles with its R2A avionics, OSK and Astro Digital were able to provide precise launch and deployment details, thereby significantly speeding up the federal government’s licensing process.

“While we knew the telemetry data provided through R2A would be an advantage to customers after launch, we didn’t initially recognize how helpful it could be in securing proper licensing,” said Phil Bracken, VP of engineering at Spaceflight. “Our mission is to help our customers get their spacecraft exactly where they need to be, when they need to be there, and this includes supporting a variety of elements on the road to launch. We were honored to support OSK and Astro Digital on this mission and incredibly impressed by their ability to successfully meet Aurora’s aggressive timeline.”

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