LUX concept for little GEOs meeting with growing acceptance
German space agency (DRL) supporting OHB program for small geostationary satellites
With its commitment to small geostationary satellites, known as LITTLE GEOs, Bremen-based space technology company OHB-System AG is pursuing the aim of placing inexpensive satellites with a relatively small mass and volume in geostationary orbits. Under its LUX project, OHB started developing a highly efficient satellite platform for communications and research at the beginning of 2004 using its own financial resources. The German Space Agency (DLR) was also convinced of the merits of this program, prompting it to support it in the form of a back-up order.
“In Germany, no geostationary satellites have been developed and built for more than ten years,” states OHB project manager Dominik Lang. “As a result, we face the risk of losing the necessary system skills in this country,” he adds, explaining the reasons for the LUX program. In contrast to conventional geostationary satellites, LITTLE GEOs are far smaller and less expensive. As a result, they are ideal for performing special tasks, which can be modified according to the customer’s wishes.
The LUX system concept will be presented to DLR at the end of August, with the first satellite to be placed in its geostationary orbit in 2009.
In the past, the primary goal has been to develop increasingly larger and more powerful satellite platforms for telecommunications applications. This type of satellite offers advantages for standard applications, e.g. satellite television, but also has serious disadvantages such as very long development times, extreme system complexity, very high investment costs and a heightened programming risk. Although the use of smaller satellites is generally no replacement for large satellite platforms, they do constitute a sensible and tailored solution for many customers.
The advantages offered by LITTLE GEOs can be summarized as follows: Low costs and risks result in a quick return on investment and allow small satellite operators and developing countries to acquire their own satellites; short development times permit swift reactions to changing market requirements, low complexity heightens system reliability and reduces overall costs and programming risks; low costs enable step-by-step extensions to satellite services; high flexibility makes it possible to react to varying market requirements (system scalability), clusters of several LITTLE GEOs can offer greater reliability than a single large platform.