Skyrora, Viasat and CGI partner on space-based launch vehicle telemetry solution

Posted on 11 October, 2023 by Advance 

Skyrora, Viasat and CGI have been awarded a contract by the European Space Agency (ESA) under the Commercial Space Transportation Services programme to demonstrate InRange, a space-based launch vehicle telemetry relay system which will benefit launch vehicle providers across the industry globally.

Image courtesy Skyrora

InRange will enable Skyrora to achieve continuous transmission of telemetry data during flight, from launch to payload deployment.

The collaboration will focus on Skyrora’s suborbital Skylark L launch vehicle, demonstrating InRange connectivity over Viasat’s global ELERA L-band satellite communication networks. The initial stage of the project will include Viasat conducting ground testing of the InRange solution with Skyrora’s launch vehicle system. CGI will undertake a market study and analysis of ground stations to determine the commercial potential of the solution within the wider launch service provider market.

Going beyond the utilization of traditional ground stations, which are limited to connecting with a launch vehicle beyond the horizon line, the InRange solution will leverage geostationary satellites in space to enable continuous data transmission between the launch vehicle and the service provider during flight. As such, this collaboration between Skyrora, Viasat and CGI will address a key issue for launch vehicle providers.

Volodymyr Levykin, CEO and Founder of Skyrora, said: “This partnership between Skyrora, Viasat and CGI is a testament to the critical relationships and collaboration between space tech companies that ensures safe access to and activity in space. With the development of the InRange telemetry system it is much less likely that the challenges around recording and transmitting the readings of launch vehicles will occur. This will save companies millions of pounds, in addition to reducing the amount of space junk, which not only clogs space and disrupts our skyline, but can also fall to Earth and cause both human and infrastructural damage.”

The project is an extension of Skyrora’s existing contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) through the Boost! Commercial Space Transportation Services and Support Programme. This has granted Skyrora with €3 million to support the development of the company’s orbital XL vehicle, a three-stage, light-class launch vehicle.

Gary Lay, Vice President of Viasat’s Strategic Programmes, said: “InRange is ideally suited to providing launch operators around the world with greater flexibility and reliability for their launch telemetry, and this connectivity is critical in the rapidly growing launch sector. Launch is a major UK strategic initiative, and we are proud to see InRange becoming an indispensable cog in this launch capability.”

Sophie Pittner, Vice President of Aerospace & Assured Space Systems at CGI in the UK and Australia, said: “Connectivity by satellite communications will improve the safety and services available to launchers and greatly expand the possibilities available for launch. CGI is proud to be involved in this next step with InRange, helping to unblock barriers and reduce the cost of launch globally.”

Matt Archer, Director of Launch at the UK Space Agency, said: “To make the UK Europe’s leading provider of small satellite launch by 2030, it’s essential that we continue to support new technologies that will enhance our launch capabilities and provide satellite companies around the world with innovative solutions that will attract them to the UK.
“Enabled by the government's investment of £12 million into the first phase of the European Space Agency’s Boost! programme, this exciting collaboration between UK-based Skyrora, Inmarsat and CGI will drive forward the development of Skyrora and the market’s ability to launch from Scotland. This partnership brings together the wealth of science, technology and engineering expertise that we have in the UK, both to advance British launch services and to move the global space sector towards a more efficient and sustainable use of space.”