- RHEA Group is launching its first ever satellite, called DOVER Pathfinder, a SmallSat created as a pathfinder for resilient GNSS-based positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) solutions.
- Today, Javier Benedicto, Director of Navigation for ESA, signed the contract with RHEA as part of ESA’s Navigation Innovation and Support Programme (NAVISP).
- The DOVER Pathfinder satellite is being built in partnership with Open Cosmos, a space company specializing in rapid mission development, and will be launched on the Virgin Orbit launcher this summer from Spaceport Cornwall at Cornwall Airport Newquay in the UK.
RHEA Group is excited to be launching its first satellite, DOVER Pathfinder (DOVER), a SmallSat that will take off on board the Virgin Orbit launcher from Spaceport Cornwall in the UK this summer. DOVER is co-funded through the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) NAVISP programme and Javier Benedicto, ESA’s Director of Navigation, signed the DOVER contract in London today. NAVISP is a key enabler for innovation and competitiveness and a strategic tool for ESA to support and develop the overall European position, navigation and timing (PNT) landscape.
DOVER measures approximately 30x10x10cm and was built by UK company Open Cosmos in cooperation with RHEA. DOVER will provide R&D results for a waveform devised by RHEA engineers that will be used by the RHEA team to confirm the performance in providing a solution for GNSS-based PNT services resilience.
PNT data plays an increasingly important role in civil, commercial and military applications, including critical infrastructure, supporting many applications in areas such as navigation, finance and process automation. It is estimated that in the UK alone, a loss of space-based PNT services would cost the UK economy around £1 billion every day.[i] The NAVISP programme aims to facilitate and support the next generation of innovations that complement, upgrade or replace current PNT technologies. DOVER is being co-funded through NAVISP Element 2, which focuses on industry capabilities and competitiveness.
Emma Jones, UK Business Director, who has been leading the project for RHEA, said: “This is a momentous event for RHEA. This year we are celebrating our 30th anniversary and it is a great milestone to launch our first ever satellite in the same year. The UK is in the very desirable position of establishing a number of spaceports around the country, and it is thrilling to have a RHEA satellite on board the first launchers to take off from UK soil.”
John Bone, RHEA’s Chief Commercial Officer and UK Vice-President, added: “DOVER was named after the Dover Strait, which is the narrowest part of the English Channel and therefore where the shipping lanes are busiest, and so historically it has been a key location for testing new techniques for PNT. We believe our innovative pathfinder satellite will help pioneer and demonstrate resilient GNSS and ground solutions for the market. Once it has completed its initial 6-month operational mission, we will make use of its inherent flexibility for other projects.”
Aleix Megias, Open Cosmos’ VP Operations and Co-Founder said: “It is a pleasure to work closely with the RHEA team to build DOVER. The short delivery time of this mission is a demonstration of our capabilities to provide responsive manufacturing, launch and operations of satellite infrastructure, all from the UK. This is why we founded Open Cosmos, to enable companies, organizations and governments to launch their own satellites and benefit from the ability to collect and monitor data from space.”
Florian Deconinck, Open Cosmos’ VP Institutional Partnerships and Future Missions, added: “The timescales for this mission were impressively aggressive: 8 months from the moment when we first exchanged with RHEA and the collection of first data. This is the result of a strong collaboration between Open Cosmos and RHEA, and very reactive support from the UK Space Agency and the ESA-NAVISP team.”
DOVER will operate in a sun-synchronized (near polar) orbit, 555km from the Earth. It has an estimated lifespan of up to 18 years, after which it will re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere in line with orbital debris mitigation rules.
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