SpaceHorizon today announced its first service, that of a small satellite launch services portfolio, positioning themselves to compete in the launch brokerage marketplace.
Using someone else’s rocket
For SpaceHorizon, a Canadian based launch services company operating out of Ottawa, it is the first step in developing a revenue stream.
Initially the company plans on targeting the Canadian and European markets for payload customers.
That small satellite launch services portfolio would see SpaceHorizon provide a full service to clients wanting to launch payloads but without the hassle of dealing with the headaches that come with launch.
Payloads would range in size from PocketQube’s weighing in at 250 grams up to satellites weighing 1000 kilograms.
“We put the small satellite owner first,” said SpaceHorizon president and founder Philip Berthiaume. “Time to orbit is driving the New Space age. We are partnering with several launch firms to provide quicker, more convenient access to space beyond the traditional rideshare model.”
It is however a decidedly different business model for a company that wants to launch its own rocket someday. While procuring launches for customers, it is at the same time building a database of future customers for themselves.
In the press release announcing the service, Berthiaume also said “traditional rideshare places the small satellite owner at the mercy of the largest paying customer. If that customer is delayed, so are the other dozen or more companies dependent upon that launch. SpaceHorizon believes small satellite owners need Lyft-style transportation options to augment the current bus ticket model.”
For now, all the launches would take place in the U.S. or New Zealand. While SpaceHorizon has yet to sign any contracts with any launch providers, they have been in discussions with several small satellite launch providers.
Berthiaume says he hopes to announce their first mission in late winter or early spring. That mission might see them contracting for a complete vehicle.
Since their plan would include the possibility of launching from New Zealand, this can only mean the company is having ongoing discussions with Rocket Labs, which Berthiaume confirmed, but said no contracts have been signed.
Should they sign Rocket Lab as a partner, it would certainly add credibility to their service as they’ll be in position to offer rides on what some would deem a proven launch provider.
As for other strategic launch partners, Berthiaume would not elaborate with whom they have talked to.
The first mission SpaceHorizon is marketing would be for up to 18U capacity to a 500 km sun-synchronous orbit and would launch in mid-2020. That orbit and payload size fits in with what Rocket Lab is currently offering.
They are also planning a LEO mission to an orbit of 400-500km in 2020 that would accommodate up to 24U payloads. A list of their first four missions is available on their website. No public information is available yet on what their service will cost.
Some of the value added service Space Horizon plans to offer include;
- Encapsulation performed in a cleanroom environment.
- Satellites can be provided with external power until beginning of terminal countdown.
- Visual confirmation through on board camera of payload separation/deployment in real-time.
What’s the cut from reselling a small satellite launch vehicle?
Berthiaume hasn’t discussed what cut his company would get from reselling a small satellite launch vehicle but here are some numbers to hazard a guess from.
Rocket Lab, a potential partner, has a reported list price of US$5.7M for launching 100 to 225 kilograms of payload into low Earth orbit. If SpaceHorizon was to purchase a launch using these specs and if Rocket lab offered a 10% resellers cut, then SpaceHorizon could see their cut equal US$570K. What their net profit would be from that is hard to speculate on.
Building their own rocket
The company has made no secret of its desire to develop and launch its own small satellite launch vehicle. It has however been coy with respect to releasing details towards that ambition which has made it difficult to evaluate their launch vehicle.
In December SpaceHorizon did release a few details of their first launch vehicle.
That rocket, dubbed Launch Vehicle 1 (LV1), has recently completed its conceptual design.
Berthiaume said his engineers completed their pre-phase A design of the LV1 medium sized launch vehicle late last fall and that they hope to bring the rocket into service in 2024.
LV1 would be capable of delivering 800 kg to 500 km in sun synchronous orbit.
Other details about the rocket are not available.
The company’s Chief Technical Officer is Bennett Leong. According to his company bio Leong “is a fourth year engineering science student at the University of Toronto with a specialisation in aerospace engineering. He has worked on uncertainty quantification and management for aircraft loads with Airbus in the UK and led the University of Toronto Aerospace Team’s Rocketry Division. Within this role he managed the design, fabrication, and testing of high performance hybrid sounding rockets and was effective in team management and testing operations.”
The company also has Adam Trumpour as a consultant for engineering and liquid propulsion.
It’s unclear what resources SpaceHorizon has at this time to develop their rocket. However, should they prove successful at marketing their small satellite launch services portfolio, SpaceHorizon will at the very least have a revenue generating business to tap into.
Updated 10:45 am: To include revised Rocket Lab price of US$5.7M versus US$5M.