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The launch of Quantum Space’s first cislunar mission

The launch of Quantum Space’s first cislunar mission

Quantum Space, a company founded earlier this year to develop the cislunar spacecraft platform, announced plans on October 26 for its first small satellite exploration mission to collect collect knowledge data from spatial situation.

The QS-1 spacecraft, scheduled to launch in October 2024, will operate in cislunar space and carry GEOST-powered space situational awareness payloads as well as stored payloads from guests. other goods. Blue Canyon will provide buses for the spacecraft, which can weigh up to 400 kg.

“We plan to demonstrate the ability to operate and navigate in cislunar space,” Ben Reed, chief technology officer at Quantum Space, said in an interview at the Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Sciences’ ASCEND conference. United States spaceflight. “We will collect data on spatial domain perception and spatial situational awareness.”

This data will come from the GEOST payload, a rendered image will scan the cislunar space. GEOST is developing similar sensors for other space situational awareness missions, including winning a contract with the Space Force last year to provide optical sensor payloads for surveillance. geosynchronous orbit.

Reed cites the example of a rocket body earlier this year that crashed into the moon that was initially identified as coming from a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch but was later linked to a Chinese mission. The difficulty in identifying it stems from a lack of tracking. “Are there many objects like this? We want to be able to identify them for the global community and let them know where they are.

Sue Hall, Quantum Space’s vice president of programs, said: “It’s beneficial to be able to look for known objects where we think they are and trace them back to make sure that’s not the case. they are in the right place as we think. . “It will also make sure that in certain volumes of space, there’s nothing that shouldn’t be there.”

This tracking will become increasingly important, he added, as governments and companies around the world plan to conduct more and more lunar missions. “As more and more satellites begin to pass through this mass, we believe it will be important to be able to gather information about these objects.”

The QS-1 will also be able to accommodate stored payloads, although Quantum Space has not announced any specific customers or their payloads. Reed said the company has been approached by an anonymous organization looking for a payload ride, but has not yet actively marketed its hosted payload opportunities.
He points out that the cached payload is optional. “We don’t need the payloads stored to end the mission and the QS-1 will fly on its current schedule, any payload, if any, is available to fly on it,” he said.

Quantum Space chose Blue Canyon for its minibus-based bus. “They’re uniquely positioned in this space, they’re experienced with this type and size of bus,” Hall said. “Our Saturn product, with significant innovations in deep space, will provide Quantum Space with an architecture built for these types of missions,” said Blue Canyon president Jeff Schrader said in a statement.

The spacecraft will also have a “fairly large” propulsion system, Hall said. Although Quantum Space has not revealed plans to launch QS-1, it does say the spacecraft will operate around the Earth-moon Lagrange point L-1, between the Earth and the Moon, or point L-2. beyond the dark side of the moon. , can move between them. It will communicate with commercial ground stations during the three-year mission. Quantum Space did not disclose the cost of QS-1, although Reed said the mission was fully funded from launch. The company revealed its plans in February when it only had five employees, with Reed, who is one of the co-founders along with Kam Ghaffarian, and Steve Jurczyk, a former associate administrator for NASA, as president. and executive director of Quantum Space, said. Reed said the company currently has up to 25 employees, mainly based at its headquarters in Rockville, Maryland, and plans to grow to more than 50 by next summer.

When Quantum Space announced plans for cislunar missions in February, the company said it would start with a small mission, and Reed said QS-1 was that mission. At the time, the company said its vision was to make spaceship platforms in cislunar known as usable outposts. Reed said the company is still investigating what that architecture will look like in the long run. “We continue to explore options and determine what types of services we will offer going forward.” He added that the mini-mission is called QS-1 “because there’s going to be a lot of stuff behind it.”

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