HawkEye 360 booth at new space conference in August 2018. HawkEye 360 booth at new space conference in August 2018. Credit: Shen Ge
With the abundance of new small satellite companies, HawkEye 360 stands out as one that detects radio wavelengths instead of visible light (what your eyes can see). HawkEye 360 plans to create a constellation of at least eighteen satellites in clusters of three that will map and analyze RF signals coming from communications and transportation services. Its applications include identifying transportation activity and logistics tracking, emergency response and rescue efforts, communications interference detection, and spectrum mapping and use. HawkEye 360 has gathered an impressive team for their initial Pathfinder mission including a university research laboratory, an asteroid mining company and a space communications payload company. University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) has a specialty lab called Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) which has developed and refined microspace technologies for 22 smallsats in the last two decades. Though UTIAS-SFL has been contracted to develop the satellites using the Nemo-V1 satellite bus, the lab is actually a subcontractor for asteroid mining company Deep Space Industries (DSI). In addition to being a prime contractor, Deep Space Industries (DSI) is also providing an innovative water-based propulsion system. Meanwhile, HawkEye 360 has collaborated with GomSpace on the RF payload.

A CAD model of a SAS satellite in low earth orbit. Credit: SAS
A CAD model of a SAS satellite in low earth orbit. Credit: SAS
There are over 5 billion unique mobile subscribers (as of August 2017) in the world. Despite this prevalence, there’s a considerable proportion of the population which lacks this access. The global sphere sees three billion people without access to affordable communication services. Connecting such populations through terrestrial means is a monumental challenge in geographically dispersed regions – Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Sky and Space Global seeks to address the challenge of global communication. Sky and Space Global (SAS) plans to close the gap in the market between existing satellite communications operators, such as Iridium, Inmarsat and Globalstar, and land-based mobile networks such as Vodafone, Telefonica, Airtel and Safaricom. Affordable mobile services are critical for the economic and social development of many developing countries. Sky and Space Global is working on a constellation of 200 nanosatellites of the 3U configuration in equatorial or near-equatorial low earth orbit (LEO) for narrowband communications. The total cost of all the satellites is expected to be $150 million. SAS is the first company to consider using nanosatellites for communication.

SlingatronA company called HyperV Technologies Corporation based in Chantilly, Virgina, USA, is working on a mechanical launch vehicle called the Slingatron. The Slingatron is a mechanical hypervelocity mass accelerator which can be used to launch objects (also called payloads) into Earth orbit at a significantly lower cost than what's done today. Just like the early railroads which opened up remote areas here on Earth, the Slingatron mechanical launch vehicle can open up the next frontier, i.e. space. Launching into low earth orbit (LEO) requires accelerating a payload to 7.6 km/sec. Traditional approaches use rocket fuel which is terribly inefficient leading to only about 4% of the rocket mass for payload while the other 96% is for rocket fuel and giant propellant tanks. Slingatron negates the need for rocket fuel or fuel tanks. The Slingatron does this by a mechanical acceleration approach much like a classical sling. In the traditional case, a man twirls the sling above his head in an outward spiral accelerating the stone. In the Slingatron case, a mechanical motor does the same thing while the payload is on an outwardly spiraling railroad track that is mounted to the mechanical motor. Interested in more of my posts and other writings outside of Impact Hound? Follow me on Twitter: @shenge86

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