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  • Satellite Evolution Group

Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) celebrates 25 years of developing successful smaller satellites

Updated: Oct 4, 2023


Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) is celebrating 25 years of building smaller satellites that provide big returns for commercial, government, and research clients. Established in 1998, SFL has built 70 operationally successful satellites recording 270 years in orbit for dozens of distinct microspace missions.

SFL will discuss its 25 years of microspace achievements this month at the International Astronautical Congress, InterGEO 2023, and Satellite Innovation 2023 at Silicon Valley Space Week.

“For 25 years, SFL has focused on developing quality smaller satellites that achieve high levels of performance at price points affordable for customers in all sectors,” said SFL Director, Dr. Robert E. Zee. “By adhering to rigorous microspace development practices, we have stood the test of time, becoming a leading innovator of small satellites and cutting-edge technologies.”

This year alone, the Toronto-based small satellite developer has seen 13 of its satellites launched and deployed, with another 26 satellites under development or awaiting launch. SFL’s record of accomplishments includes developing microspace missions for applications related to Earth observation, atmospheric monitoring, ship tracking, telecommunications, radio frequency (RF) geolocation, and space astronomy.

“At SFL, we have built our reputation on developing smaller satellites that not only work the first time but exceed expectations both in terms of operational performance and lifespan,” said Zee.

Pushing the envelope of what smaller satellites can accomplish, SFL has achieved microspace breakthroughs in space technology miniaturization including advanced attitude control for precise sensor pointing, drag sail deorbiting, autonomous formation flight, modular power systems, and custom deployables (e.g., antennas, solar panels, instrument shutters and doors) for small spacecraft.

Notable SFL missions include the following:

  • HawkEye 360 Commercial Constellation – SFL has developed 18 formation-flying radio frequency geolocation microsatellites and guided integration of three others by HawkEye 360, all launched since 2018. Additional three-satellite clusters are under development at SFL’s Toronto headquarters and at HawkEye 360’s U.S. facility under SFL’s Flex Production Program.

  • GHGSat Commercial Constellation – Since 2016, SFL has developed nine greenhouse gas monitoring microsatellites, achieving remarkably precise attitude control and sensor pointing for the commercial GHGSat of Montreal, in addition to sustained detection and measurement of methane emissions at double the design capacities of the satellites.

  • Telesat LEO 3 Communications Microsatellite – Built on SFL’s scalable and versatile DEFIANT platform, this 30-kg demonstration spacecraft was launched in 2023 and will provide continuity for customer and ecosystem vendor testing campaigns following decommissioning of Telesat’s Phase 1 LEO satellite.

  • NEMO-HD Earth Observation (EO) Microsatellite – Built at a fraction of the cost of a traditional EO spacecraft, Slovenia’s first satellite captures 2.8-meter multispectral optical imagery and high-definition video used in a variety of applications since its 2020 launch.

  • Commercial Communications Constellation – Eighteen CubeSats have been deployed on orbit and are successfully operating using the SFL 6U-XL SPARTAN design for a Toronto-based company.

SFL offers a complete suite of nano-, micro- and small satellites – including high-performance, low-cost CubeSats – that satisfy the needs of a broad range of mission types from 3 to 500 kilograms. For a comprehensive list of SFL high-performance satellite platforms, please visit https://www.utias-sfl.net/satellite-platforms/overview/.

For more information on SFL’s selection of space-proven smaller satellites and spacecraft technologies, please visit SFL in Booth 614 at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) being held Oct. 2-6, in Stand D27.10 at InterGEO 2023 being held Oct. 10-12 in Berlin, and in Booth 12 at Satellite Innovation 2023, part of Silicon Valley Space Week, Oct. 17-18 in Mountain View, California.


For more information visit: www.utias-sfl.net

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