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tech track papers

Categories: 2016, Launch

Establishing a Launch facility for small satellites at Esrange, Sweden

Nano and microsatellites, including Cubesats and even minisatellites are today mainly launched as piggyback payloads with very limited opportunities for choosing orbit or even knowing in which orbit the satellite will be placed. As the satellites and their applications get more sophisticated, the need to launch them into carefully designed orbits has arisen. There is already a queue of Cubesats looking for launch opportunities and we can expect a further increase in the future. Thus, there is a need for dedicated launchers for small satellites which regularly launch into standardized orbits. To meet these needs for access to space, SSC has initiated project Rainbow, a launch capability for small satellites from SSC’s launching facility Esrange Space Center. Esrange is located in the very north of Sweden, above the Arctic Circle (68°N, 21°E) and has access to a vast, unpopulated recovery area. The facility has been operated since 1966 and is presently used for sounding rocket and balloon launches. It also hosts one of the world’s largest civilian satellite ground stations. Esrange already has a well-equipped infrastructure and experience of range and launch safety as well as handling large rocket motors and launching of guided rockets. The launch service is intended for 1-150 kg satellites, however, CubeSats are the target payloads. The launch periods, one to three per year, will be fixed.  Today, there are no dedicated CubeSat launch vehicles that offer standardized orbits. The launch service from Esrange will enable a standardized orbit suitable for most CubeSats; sun-synchronous orbit at 500 km altitude (inclination = 97.4°) with the ascending node at 0600, 2200, and 1400 (“dawn-dusk” orbit) Local Solar Time. By using the launch service on three consecutive launches a constellation of satellites covering every local time can be established. Esrange will be a “green” launch site meaning that Hydrazine and other highly toxic substances will be banned. A phase A study with the aim to investigate if a satellite launch service can be implemented at Esrange has been conducted and the outcome is that it is technically feasible. A phase B1 study is currently ongoing which aims for political endorsement, fundraising, partnership establishment as well as evaluation of different launch vehicle options. The next phase, B2 will commence during spring 2016 and will include flight safety risk assessment, design of infrastructure at Esrange and orbit raiser design (concept and main engine) if the need for an orbit raiser is verified. ECAPS’ High Performance Green Propulsion is the preferable choice for an orbit raiser. The goal is to launch the first satellite from the “green” launch site Esrange in 2020.

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Author: Anna Rathsman
Topic: Launch