Space

Benchmark unveils small satellite collision-avoidance kit

LOGAN, Utah – At the Small Satellite Conference, Benchmark Space Systems unveiled a collision-avoidance kit designed to help small satellites dodge debris and steer clear of other spacecraft.

Benchmark is taking orders its “Cola Kit,” which the company plans to begin shipping to customers in early 2023.

The Cola Kit is the size of a two-unit (2U) cubesat.

“If you give me 2U in an ESPA class [satellite], I can give you two to 10 collision-avoidance maneuvers for $100,000 to $150,000,” Chris Carella, Benchmark executive vice president of business development and strategy, told SpaceNews.

Benchmark developed the Cola Kit in response to demand from prime contractors that are equipping their spacecraft with electric propulsion systems but still lacking the ability to maneuver quickly in response to conjunction alerts.

“They are flying these high-cost, high-value assets, but they have this vulnerability that’s just not acceptable,” Carella said.

Orbital conjunctions are becoming more frequent thanks to the growing number of satellites launched and detailed information on objects in orbit being provided by companies.

The Cola Kit is our “response to all the great data that the space domain awareness and space traffic management companies are coming out with,” Carella said. “The Cola Kit is cheap, small, lightweight insurance policy for your high-cost asset.”

Benchmark’s Cola Kit combines the company’s chemical propulsion tanks and thruster, which have flight heritage, with control electronics, inlet and outlet manifolds, and an adjustable mount.

In addition to avoiding collisions, the Cola Kit is designed to give satellites and orbital transfer vehicles the ability to perform controlled deorbits.

“We think the demand is strong enough for Cola Kits that when we have capacity on the production floor, we’ll use it to build metal plasma thrusters and Cola Kits,” Carella said.

Benchmark is forging partnerships to market Cola Kits with several electric propulsion and space traffic management companies. The first company to sign-on was space safety startup Scout Space.

“Scout will deploy our fleet of in-space and on-orbit systems to provide continuous situational awareness services to support sustainable space operations,” Scout CEO Eric Ingram said in a statement. “Scout and Benchmark have shared missions in the past and we have strong synergies in our respective roadmaps that highlight several opportuawnities to work cooperatively to bring pre-integrated, bundled solutions to benefit the market.”

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