ESA Technology Transfer Success Story - The missing layer: how aircraft constellations could provide a new perspective on our planet [Aug/2022]
Luxembourgish firm SkyfloX is developing ESA-patented ORCA (Optical and RF Constellation on Aircraft) to equip commercial aircraft with small sensors (weighting less than a small suitcase), forming the ‘missing layer’ for a range of Earth Observation (EO) and telecommunication applications.
ORCA uses commercial aeroplanes as a piggyback platform to carry smallsat-like payloads, forming aircraft constellations and delivering satellite-like Earth Observation services. Crucially, ORCA does not require additional planes to be flown. Instead, it capitalises on the 30,000 commercial flights across European airspace every day. SkyfloX’s modelling and simulation demonstrates the strong ground coverage which could be achieved, even with only a fraction of these planes carrying ORCA payloads.
SkyfloX’s ORCA service avoids expensive launch requirements, and enjoys low capital and operational costs, especially in comparison with satellite constellations. Whilst SkyfloX do have to pay for installation and rental costs, which will be paid to the airline companies carrying the payloads, it enjoys significantly lower costs elsewhere in its business model, especially in comparison to satellites constellations that could provide similar data coverage. The ORCA service also avoids contributing to space debris and the use of sought-after satellite orbits, thereby supporting a sustainable space environment.
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This initiative is led by ESA's Technology Transfer and Patent Management Unit (TTPO) in ESA's Directorate for Commercialisation, Industry & Procurement. The Unit is guiding start-ups, entrepreneurs and European businesses in developing spin-offs for ESA's space technologies. More recent successful transfers can be accessed at: Technology Transfer - Funded Projects. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.