2019 saw a significant milestone in Satellite Applications Catapult’s In-Orbit Demonstration (IOD) programme, which offers companies a fast-track, low-cost opportunity to test a service or technology in orbit.
10D-1 GEMS, with its lightweight weather data payload from Orbital Micro Systems (OMS), was delivered to the International Space Station in April 2019 for launch into low Earth orbit. OMS’s involvement in the Catapult’s In-Orbit Demonstration programme has fuelled its expansion from Boulder, Colorado to Edinburgh, UK. The company predicts this move will open up a wide variety of commercial opportunities in various markets including aerospace, maritime transportation, agriculture, insurance and energy.
There has also been strong progress on subsequent other IOD programmes: IOD-3 AMBER has been awarded to Horizon Technologies for an adapted version of its FlyingFishTM system for tracking vessels at sea: IOD-5 TARS will be Kepler Communications’ final prototype for its GEN1 low Earth orbit constellation. This partnership will also see Kepler build a UK supply chain for its new satellite constellation with overall service capability for Kepler estimated to be around £71m by 2022. Open Cosmos will provide a one-stop mission package for IOD-6, marking the start of a commercially sustainable service in this field. This follows its use of the Catapult’s new Disruptive Innovation for Space Centre (DISC) to effectively grow its business, which has seen staff levels rising sharply, recruiting 3o people in 2018 and doubling in size every 6 months.