Two new high-performance space systems products have been unveiled by Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (“Rocket Lab” or “the Company”), a world leader in launch services and space systems. These products are intended to expand access to critical satellite parts for the worldwide small satellite market.
The new Rocket Lab products include the Frontier-X software-defined radio designed to provide high-speed data for both near-Earth and deep space small satellite missions, as well as a new 12Nms reaction wheel specifically for constellation class satellites, bolstering the Company’s existing line of tested satellite components.
Along with star trackers, reaction wheels, separation systems, radios, flight software, ground software, and solar power solutions, the new items join Rocket Lab’s legacy space systems components. Over 1,700 space flights have been supported by Rocket Lab’s space systems components as a whole.
Using Frontier-X Satellite Radio, Small Sat Deep Space Missions are Made Possible
The Frontier-X radio from Rocket Lab is an economical replacement for mission payload downlink at low Earth orbit (LEO) and is a high-speed, X-band ranging RF transceiver intended to extend the range of tiny satellites beyond LEO to cislunar and deep space destinations.
Along with the Frontier-S range RF transceiver, the Frontier-X radio from Rocket Lab offers sophisticated capability that isn’t frequently seen in low-cost software-defined radios. This consists of a coherent transponder to facilitate radiometric navigation techniques, precise timekeeping capabilities, turbo and convolutional encoding in accordance with standards advised by the Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems (CCSDS), and a hardware-based critical command decoder (CCD). The X-band radio offers low mass and low power digital signal processing (DSP)-enabled low baud rates, two-way doppler and regenerative ranging, beacon modes, and Deep Space Network (DSN) waveforms. Beyond Earth orbit, including in geostationary orbit (GEO) and deep space, the Fronter-X radio has the resilience to endure in extreme radiation settings.
The Frontier radios from Rocket Lab are based on the Frontier Radio from the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). The Frontier-S was successfully flown on the Company’s Photon spacecraft, a spacecraft Rocket Lab designed and launched that deployed the CAPSTONE satellite to the Moon for NASA. Rocket Lab is designing and constructing two spacecraft for NASA’s Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers (ESCAPADE) mission to Mars, for which the Frontier-X radio has passed certification. Production of Frontier-X is already underway in the Long Beach headquarters of Rocket Lab, and orders may be placed right away.
Dependable in-space attitude control using the newest reaction wheel for constellations
The new 12Nms reaction wheel has been developed to expand attitude control solutions that already include reaction wheels ranging from 10mNms to 1Nms and high-performance star trackers. The new reaction wheel is based on a strong space heritage and extensive experience across decades of reaction wheel production with Sinclair Interplanetary by Rocket Lab.
The 12Nms reaction wheel from Rocket Lab, which is built for longevity and dependability, is perfect for attitude control of spacecraft with weights up to 600–650 kg and lifespans of up to 12 years. The 12Nms reaction wheel is suitable for large volume constellation operations as well as high mission assurance civil or national security missions due to its low mass, power, and volume. The 12Nms wheel is available in two variations: a LEO model for missions with shorter lifetimes and a radiation-hardened form for extended lives. Current plans call for the 12Nms wheel to fly with an unidentified huge mega constellation client.
More than 100 satellites have employed Rocket Lab’s reaction wheels for missions and constellations centred on communications, science, technological demonstrations, remote sensing, and more. The 12Nms reaction wheel is now in production and is readily accessible.