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Ensuring Mission Success with Leading Space Systems Integration

As the new space economy and the new space race rapidly evolve in parallel, the demand for leading-edge, reliable, and cost-effective satellite and robotic space solutions has also accelerated. Space-based infrastructure is at the heart of many technologies foundational to global security and society, including communications networks, navigation systems, and Earth observation capabilities.

Humanity’s growing reliance on space highlights the need for seamless systems integration–the process of coordinating and synthesizing individual components to work together within a comprehensive system.

Space integration: In the context of satellite and robotic space missions, systems integration means harmonizing communications protocols, software, mechanical elements, and electronic elements into a cohesive and interoperable architecture.

Effective space systems integration minimizes incompatibilities and ensures components work in tandem to achieve operational efficiency and reduce mission risk:

  • For example, integrating hardware and software early in the design phase enables the identification and resolution of issues before launch.
  • This approach not only ensures a greater likelihood of success but also reduces costly delays.

A Rich Space Legacy

As a leader in space infrastructure, Maxar Space Systems recognizes the transformative power of well-integrated systems to ensure mission success.

While its sister company, Maxar Intelligence, is known for looking down at and making sense of activity on Earth–Maxar Space Systems is focused on sending systems into orbit.

Though the Maxar Space Systems name is relatively new, its track record of innovation and flight heritage is long, with more than 300 spacecraft on orbit. The legacy of Maxar Space Systems extends back to 1957 with the formation of the Western Development Laboratories division of Philco–the first business that would eventually become Maxar.

Notable achievements of Maxar Space Systems and its legacy companies include building, integrating, or contributing components for:

  • 1960: Courier 1B, the world’s first active repeater satellite (Philco)
  • 1965: NASA’s Houston facility for the Gemini and Apollo missions (Philco-Ford)
  • 1974: NASA’s SMS-1, the administration’s first geostationary meteorological satellite (Philco-Ford)
  • 1977: NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 exploration spacecraft (Ford Aerospace)
  • 1982: The Indian Space Research Organisation’s INSAT-1A, the first three-axis communications satellite (Ford Aerospace)
  • 1989: Superbird-A, the first SSL 1300 satellite for Japan’s Space Communications Corporation (Ford Aerospace)
  • 2005: IPSTAR, the world’s first true high-throughput satellite designed to provide broadband services to 14 countries in the APAC region (Space Systems Loral)
  • 2021: Robotic arm for NASA’s Perseverance rover, Maxar’s sixth robotic arm on Mars
  • 2023: Hughes’ JUPITER 3 (Maxar Space Systems)
  • 2024: Maxar Intelligence’s WorldView Legion Earth observation satellites (Maxar Space Systems)

Currently, Maxar Space Systems supports key elements of the US national space program’s next forays into space exploration: the company built the spacecraft platform for NASA’s Psyche mission to explore a metallic asteroid and is also building the power and propulsion element for NASA’s Artemis lunar Gateway program.

Adaptation for Evolving Mission Requirements

Whether for space exploration or national security, mission requirements are constantly evolving. As new needs emerge, flexibility in system architecture is key. Maxar Space Systems’ open and modular designs prioritize scalability and adaptability. As such, systems remain agile and can be upgraded or modified quickly to facilitate plug-and-play components and adapt missions to emerging technologies.

Flexibility is critical for both commercial and government users. Regardless of application, the ability to swiftly incorporate new technologies is often the difference between achieving mission success or falling behind the competition.

  • National security: Space systems that support national security are indispensable for communications; navigation; and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
    • Effective systems integration ensures these spacecraft can seamlessly connect with terrestrial networks and other space-based assets, enabling reliable and resilient operations.
  • Space programs: In civil space programs, integration plays a significant role in scientific research, EO, and disaster management.
    • NASA relies heavily on systems integration for missions such as the Mars Rovers to enable communication among rovers, orbiters, and ground stations.
    • Integrated systems ensure these components collaborate effectively to provide comprehensive and accurate data.

Commercial Applications and New Opportunities

As the commercial space sector continues to expand, high-quality integration ensures satellite constellations can deliver broadband internet, IoT connectivity, and high-resolution EO. Commercial customers require consistent performance and adaptability to meet changing business needs.

Maxar Space Systems’ approach to systems integration ensures satellite designs are both robust and flexible. For example, integrating multiple payloads enables commercial operators to diversify offerings by providing imaging, communication, and other services from the same spacecraft. As commercial ventures explore opportunities in on-orbit servicing, manufacturing, and mining, systems integration will ensure the collaborative function of robotic systems and satellites.

Testing and quality: Integrating diverse components, often from multiple suppliers, requires rigorous testing and quality assurance. Comprehensive validation processes must be implemented to confirm components work harmoniously before deployment.

Cyber threats: Additionally, cybersecurity is a growing concern. As more systems become interconnected, vulnerabilities may arise that could compromise mission security. Integration must prioritize secure communication protocols and safeguard mission-critical data. Maxar Space Systems employs best-in-class cybersecurity protocols to deliver system integrity and data protection.

Systems integration remains a cornerstone of successful satellite and robotic missions. As space becomes integral to national security, scientific research, and commercial ventures, the importance of interoperable, flexible, and secure systems cannot be overstated.

Maxar Space Systems is dedicated to advancing the field of space systems integration through rigorous testing, modular design, and secure communication. By prioritizing these principles, the space industry can meet the evolving needs of the commercial, civil, and defense sectors, and develop resilient and adaptable systems that propel humanity to new frontiers.

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