Thales Alenia Space has signed the first phase of a contract with NorthStar Earth & Space, the Canadian space-based information services company, to start development and production of the first three smallsat satellites that are part of the world’s first and most advanced commercial space-based environmental and near-space monitoring system, the companies announced on 27 October.

In November 2018, the Space Alliance, (Telespazio and Thales Alenia Space) announced they had taken a stake in NorthStar Earth and Space. Today, the industrial journey begins for the SKYLARK constellation, with Thales Alenia Space being responsible for space system activities by providing the payloads, with LeoStella (a joint venture with BlackSky) providing the satellite platform and the assembly, integration and test facilities, based in Tukwila, Washington, for final assembly and delivery.

NorthStar’s SKYLARK space-based system will generate unique and outstanding data to build value added services for space situational awareness. SKYLARK signifies a first step in providing much-needed timely and precise information to the satellite operators,” declared Hervé Derrey, CEO of Thales Alenia Space.

The ability to view, understand and map the physical location of natural and man-made objects in orbit (currently over 600,000 objects are in low Earth orbit, with billions of dollars of space assets at risk from collisions) is now becoming a real concern for all satellite owners and operators. Tracking resident space objects from space with optical sensors will enhance and complement existing systems. By observing from multiple perspectives in space, SKYLARK satellites will significantly improve the tracking of objects, the volume of detected debris and the ability to predict potential collisions.

“NorthStar welcomes the world class expertise of Thales Alenia Space and LeoStella to our mission of delivering safe spaceflight operations in the New Space Economy,” added Stewart Bain, CEO of NorthStar Earth & Space.

The SKYLARK smallsats will be based on LeoStella’s LEO-100 Multi-Mission Bus and a compact optical instrument. “The NorthStar space situational awareness constellation brings unique capabilities of free-flying non-Earth imaging satellites to the commercial sector,” observed Mike Hettich, LeoStella CEO.

The SKYLARK constellation will ease the task of those responsible for ensuring collisions in low Earth orbit do not occur. (Image: NorthStar)

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