Tyvak COO Marco Villa

LUXEMBOURG — Cubesat manufacturer Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems Inc. is moving upstream from its core business to nudge promising vertical markets toward the use of cubesats.

With a large production facility in Irvine, Calif., and with Lockheed Martin Ventures as a strategic investor, Tyvak is already well-embedded with the U.S. government.

The company notably is building at least five 6u cubesats for NASA’s Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator (PTD) program, which uses Tyvak-built satellite buses to test a wide range of technologies in low Earth orbit. Tyvak provides the bus, the satellite’s assembly and integration.

The first, called Hydros, will test a water-based propellant and is scheduled for launch late this year. The second mission, PTD-2, is called T-Bird and will include a cubesat-adapted attitude control system, called Hyper-XACT, from Blue Canyon Technologies.

Credit: Tyvak

PTD-3 is an optical communications payload designed to provide a 200-Gbps datalink to 30-cm terminals in association with Lincoln Labs, said John Hanson, president of CrossTrac Engineering, which performs program management for NASA.

Tyvak, a division of Terran Orbital, is prime contractor for the RainCube radar precipitation-profile satellite launched in 2018 featuring a deployable half-meter Ka-band antenna on a 6u cubesat.

Marco Villa, chief operations officer of Tyvak, and chief executive of Tyvak’s international division based in Torino, Italy, said Tyvak has four commercial companies under contract but not all of them have sought to publicize what they’re up to.

Tyvak operates in a similar way. “We have been identified many times as the least-known company in the NewSpace arena, although we are one of the most established,” Villa said here at the May 21-22 Luxembourg Space Forum. Tyvak says it has launched more than 200 satellites.

Credit: Tyvak

Two of Tyvak’s current customers are IoT satellite constellation startup Myriota Pty. Ltd. and GeoOptics, whose business is GPS radio occultation.

The GeoOptics work “is a joint development between [NASA’s JPL] and us, with GeoOptics bringing their knowledge,” Villa said. “It’s performing better than anything else” in providing data from the edge of the atmosphere down to low altitudes for farming, transportation and meteorological markets.

Like other smallsat builders, Tyvak is moving into the systems-provision business in which today’s satellite operators can opt to purchase a service from a company that handles the hardware development.

“We went from making hardware and technology to instead creating an infrastructure for customer uses,” Villa said. “I go around to people who are not in the space business and try to understand how I can cater to their needs.

Villa said Tyvak is partnering with several unnamed ground-transport companies “to see if there is something we could do with a constellation that would give super-low latency and ubiquitous internet. We are not actively deploying satellites yet, but we’re certainly advising.”

Villa said there are at least six different government and commercial IoT companies and that Tyvak has created its own RF group develop technologies to permit low-data-rate, untended devices to communicate with satellites equipped with deployable antennas.

“We have entered pretty strongly in that market on the commercial side,” Villa said.