The Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems spacecraft, which helped EchoStar acquire potentially important S-band spectrum rights, was powered by a propulsion technology supplied by Stellar Exploration.

EchoStar launched its third nanosatellite on 30th June on SpaceX Transporter-2 rideshare flight, following the failure of two nanosatellites launched in 2020.

In an early August 10-Q report filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, EchoStar stated, “The nanosatellite was effectively commissioned and put at the height stipulated in our authorization for the S-band frequency.” “As a result, we have met the International Telecommunication Union’s enhanced requirements for Australia, which is a significant step in perfecting our spectrum rights. The nanosatellite will now be utilized to create and test a variety of S-band services and applications.”

EchoStar’s inability to occupy the orbital space highlights the importance of propulsion in nanosatellite missions.

EchoStar’s mobile satellite services throughout Europe, Africa, and Middle East are based on S-band. When it bought Canadian startup Helios Wire in 2019, the American satellite communications company got international S-band licenses in low Earth orbit. (Sirion Global, an Australian affiliate, handled Helios Wire’s ITU application for global S-band mobile satellite operations.)

EchoStar had to start offering services from the LEO (low Earth orbit) slot by August 10 to lock up the worldwide S-band spectrum rights. (The deadline was originally set for April, but EchoStar was granted an extension by the International Telecommunications Union.)

Stellar Exploration of San Luis Obispo, California, provided propulsion for NASA’s Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) cubesat, which will launch in October aboard a Rocket Lab Electron from New Zealand. NASA’s smallsat mission to evaluate the orbit that would be utilized by lunar Gateway will deploy from New Zealand, rather than Virginia, as scheduled.

Rocket Lab’s Photon spacecraft is going to lift the CAPSTONE satellite’s orbit, putting it on a course to the moon if everything goes according to plan. Then, to get the satellite into the close-rectilinear halo orbit near the moon, CAPSTONE will use a Stellar Exploration propulsion unit with eight hydrazine-fed rockets.

For the CAPSTONE mission, the EchoStar flight served as a testbed.

According to Tomas Svitek, president of Stellar Exploration, “the orbit increase required around 65 meters per second.” “We’re quite excited since this is the identical propulsion that will be utilized on the CAPSTONE mission later this year. The spacecraft’s propulsion system got it into operational orbit swiftly, with ample propellant left over for further orbital adjustments and, eventually, deorbiting.”