SmallSpark Space Systems has received financial backing from the UK Space Agency to develop a next-generation dual-firing mode propulsion system, designed to power the company’s Space Logistics Vehicle (S4-SLV), along with upper stages of launch vehicles.
The project would be a landmark for the UK space sector, as the first cislunar mission launched from Britain using systems and technology designed in the country, by SmallSpark’s growing team of engineers.
Set to be the first of its kind demonstrated in space, the S4-NEWT-A2 aims to provide enhanced mobility and logistics capabilities for the S4-SLV – a vehicle under development by SmallSpark that will simplify the transportation of low-mass payloads within the cislunar system, providing communications, power and mobility.
The S4-NEWT-A2 will be one of the core systems that will enable SmallSpark’s S4-SLV to reliably move throughout cislunar space, and with the intention to be refuelled in space each vehicle seeks to serve at least 50 payloads in its lifetime; ending with a deorbit burn and bringing debris down with it.
Joseph Ward, SmallSpark CEO and Director of Propulsion said:
“We’re working to build the equivalent of public transport for satellites, with regular trips providing power, comms and mobility as needed by customers.
“SLV’s purpose is to reduce the development time for satellite manufactures, eliminating the need for onboard systems beyond those critical to operations. We believe this is an essential step in enabling a thriving cislunar economy.”
The Cardiff-based aerospace technology venture, which focuses on developing novel engineering solutions for the aerospace and space industry, has received investment from the UK Space Agency to fuel the six-figure project.
Matt Archer, Director of Commercial Spaceflight at the UK Space Agency, said:
“The UK Space Agency is excited to support this innovative technology from SmallSpark Space Systems, which will offer operations and communications solutions for companies looking for efficient ways to launch satellites into space.
“We are committed to developing the UK’s launch sector, and this grant forms part of a £3 million package that the UK Space Agency is investing in launch technologies to help boost growth and unlock business opportunities all along the launch supply chain.
“SmallSpark’s exciting work on in-space logistics is a fantastic example of how the UK is leading the way on space sustainability, as the SLV will be able to service small satellites in orbit, thereby prolonging the life of satellites and reducing space debris.”
With the project developing rapidly, SmallSpark has launched an online booking system allowing parties to be one of the first to secure their place on the historic launch scheduled for 2024.
More widely, as interest and confidence in the global commercial space sector grows, the UK Government has shown continued support for the European Space Agency with an investment of over £1.8B – £200M of which has been pledged to the ESA’s exploration program, with a key focus on Lunar operations and logistics.