Two years after Aerospacelab’s first satellite mission (Arthur-1) flew into space on SpaceX‘s second dedicated smallsat rideshare mission (Transporter-2), Grégoire lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base on June 12, 2023.
With this launch, the two European companies debut their cooperation under a Multi-Launch Agreement (MLA) that will, through 2023 and 2024, enable the launch of seven of Aerospacelab’s Versatile Satellite Platform (VSP) via SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and further strengthen their relationship. Aerospacelab and Exolaunch are members of the Young European Enterprises Syndicate for Space (YEESS), an international organization dedicated to boosting competitivity and promoting innovations emerging from the space sector in Europe.
While primarily focused on demonstrating Aerospacelab’s VSP capabilities in terms of attitude control, data handling and payload interfaces (to name but a few), Grégoire further makes the case for Aerospacelab’s laser communication operating between the satellite and its ground station, thanks to a Free Space Optical Communication (FSOC) embarked terminal.
In addition to illustrating Aerospacelab’s expertise on design, structure building and vertical manufacturing integration, Grégoire represents the maiden flight of Aerospacelab’s Versatile Satellite Platform which, on one hand, aims to provide private and public stakeholders with standardized building blocks capable of accommodating various missions and, on the other hand, ensures progress towards the company’s project to build a constellation of satellites in the upcoming years.
The VSP is a key component of Aerospacelab’s plan to provide a European answer to the expected upsurge in global small satellite demand. Indeed, after securing 40 million euros in Series B financing in 2022, the company is about to start the construction of its satellite megafactory which will become Europe’s largest manufacturing factory with an expected production capacity of 500 satellites/year.
Aerospacelab selected Exolaunch as mission management and integration services provider due to that company’s outstanding record on Falcon 9 and its flight heritage that spans 20 missions. In addition to overseeing Grégoire and the follow-on satellites’ launches with end-to-end mission management, Exolaunch will provide Aerospacelab with their industry leading CarboNIX separation system to ensure reliable separation of the satellites. With a flight record of more than 50 smallsats deployed across 12 missions, CarboNIX will guarantee low-shock and smooth separations to safely deliver the satellites into their target orbits.
“The launch of Grégoire, our second small satellite to reach orbit, is not only a key milestone that highlights Aerospacelab as a global player in the aerospace industry, it is also the opportunity for us to assert our expertise and showcase that we’re able to internally design and manufacture most of the satellite’s components while remaining competitively priced.”
— Benoit Deper, CEO and founder of Aerospacelab
“Exolaunch is proud to be awarded a series of launch contracts from Aerospacelab to safely deliver their seven VSP satellites into orbit. It’s been a pleasure to work with Aerospacelab’s highly professional team over successive launch campaigns to perform a rapid VSP satellite constellation deployment in a matter of months. Having just launched Grégoire on Falcon 9 from Vandenberg, we look forward to many more successful launches together with Aerospacelab and SpaceX.”
— Jeanne Allarie, VP Launch at Exolaunch
“In projects of this scope, agility and adaptability are crucial turning points that define the “make it” or “break it” moment. Thanks to the talent and commitment of our collaborators, we were able to have a satellite ready for launch only a few years after design started from scratch. Not only was it possible to design and build this brand-new platform in house, but this asset allows now to speed up the follow-up missions with already 5 more satellites in their AIT phase right now.“
— Dorian Lasnet, Project Manager, Aerospacelab