VILINUS, Lithuania and MIDLAND, Texas -- NanoAvionics, a Lithuanian space avionics and broadband company, recently launched three nano-satellites. These are small, cubic connectivity satellites carrying an array of instruments that allow them to fulfill a wide range of roles. These nano-satellites are expected to be the key for the expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT). According to experts, nano-satellites are more suitable and efficient in enabling such a network than larger and older satellites with outdated systems.
IoT solutions require unprecedented network mobility almost everywhere, a service than can most reliably be provided by satellites. Yet IoT is only one possible use case of NanoAvionics' technology.
"We produce satellite platforms, or satellite buses, as we call them. Even though 80% of satellite buses' design remains standard, we can customize our satellites according to mission requirements and specifics," explains Vaida Karaliunaite, CMO at NanoAvionics.
So far, NanoAvionics' customers have used their platform to optimize agricultural supervision, to track endangered animals in Africa's wilderness, and even in the academic study of climate change, tracing the growth of sea algae. "It is clear that satellite-based connectivity, as provided by our technology, is especially valuable in regions where ground infrastructure is insufficient," Karaliunaite says.
This month NanoAvionics has also received a contract to build a 12U nanosatellite bus for the Singaporean research mission "Cathode-Less Micro Propulsion Satellite" (CaLeMPSat). The mission will test new technology that allows nanosatellites to perform high-impulse maneuvers such as orbital maintenance or formation flying as well as the decommissioning maneuvers needed to minimize space debris.
NanoAvionics was born out of Lithuania's first foray into space in 2014, when the country's first satellites, LituanicaSAT-1 and LitSat-1, were launched. The company's founders met as NASA interns overseeing the project, when they came up with the idea of small, flexible nano-satellites. "NanoAvionics was launched to unite that expertise and thus develop and commercialize Lithuanian space engineering. Drafts for the team's first satellite were actually drawn on a bar napkin back at NASA. In Lithuania, the founders have gathered a strong talent base in our relevant fields, especially in mechanical, electronics, software and systems engineering," Karaliunaite recounts.
The development of NanoAvionics in Lithuania has tallied a general trend in space technology, the so-called New Space Paradigm. The proponents of this idea believe that the exploitation of space in the future should be less government-controlled and more business-driven. NanoAvionics has committed to that vision from the very beginning, with the conviction that reducing costs was the most decisive factor in opening up space to businesses.
The company started when engineers were just beginning to sketch smaller satellites, and most experts were not sure if they will have tangible business applications beyond technology demonstrations. However, rapidly advancing smaller electronics have allowed for space vehicles and instruments they carry to become much smaller, thus vastly decreasing the costs of launching them and making their use practical for business purposes - as has been proved by the customers of NanoAvionics.
Moreover, NanoAvionics itself has become a success story of space business. What started as a team of 10 collaborating on LituanicaSAT-1 in 2013 has now grown into an international company with 80 employees, working at the home site in Lithuania but also in company divisions at Harwell Space Cluster in the UK and in the United States, where its headquarters are located. In the US, NanoAvionics is located close to its principal investor, AST & Science, in Texas, where it is manufacturing products specifically aimed at the US market, in accordance with government and NASA requirements.
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