Small satellites are irreplaceable for communication and observation of the earth. A Berlin startup shoots them row by row into space. Business is booming.
What exactly is Exolaunch?
Exolaunch is a special carpool. The Berlin-based company shoots small satellites into space. The last launch took place in the Russian spaceport Wostotschny. The next is scheduled for summer 2019 when 40 of the predominantly shoe-box-sized satellites embark on their journey into orbit. The satellites enable telecommunications on Earth, guard the planet and serve many other experiments.
Dmitriy Bogdanov founded the company Exolaunch. In 2000 he moved from Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, to Berlin, because he wanted to study space science. During his training, he came into contact with the then new technology of small satellites, the 500 to 700 kilometers from Earth at a speed of about seven kilometers per second orbiting the blue planet.
“There was no market and no relevant services”
At that time, these satellites could not do much. They were just able to send and receive radio signals. “You can imagine that, like WhatsApp, in a primitive way,” explains the scientist. “Nobody believed that this technology has a future,” he recalls. But Bogdanov was convinced of this technology. About 20 years later, it has become known as New Space. New Space is the collective term for the development, construction, launch and operation of small satellites.
The Technical University of Berlin (TUB) developed its first satellite TUBSat-A in 1991, built it, put it into orbit and then operated it for research purposes. Every two years, a new satellite followed: first TubSat-B, then TUBSat-C. Bogdanov already worked on these projects – first as a student, then as a research assistant. Among other things, he developed the ground station in which the signals from space were collected and evaluated.
At that time, the native Uzbek was mainly concerned with satellites for academic reasons. “There was no market and no relevant services,” says Bogdanov. During this time, space exploration was only interested in large-scale satellites weighing several tons, which were shot into space by the costly missiles of state or parastatal organizations. New Space was not in focus.
Berlin is considered a leading New Space Center
Berlin is considered a leading New Space Center – with its own master’s program in aerospace engineering. This teaching and research focus contributed to the fact that more than 70 research institutes and companies have now settled in the German capital. The Technical University, which has been conducting research in this field since 1963, has so far carried 16 satellites into space. “This year we will be launching five more satellites, and launches are planned for 2020 and the following years,” says a university spokesman.