Published: 31. May 2016 by: Trond Abrahamsen

SMILE: Launch of Small Innovative Launcher for Europe

Satellite launch from ASC

European project for small satellites launcher targets independent access to space for small satellites

Amsterdam, 31 May 2016 – Today, the ‘Small Innovative Launcher for Europe’ (SMILE), a European Union Horizon 2020 project, was officially launched at the European Space Solutions conference in The Hague. From January 2016 until the end of 2018, a consortium of 14 European companies and institutes will be working on a launcher for satellites up to 50 kg and a Europe-based launch facility at Andøya, Norway. The aim is to enable an affordable launch capability for several smaller satellites or a single micro-satellite.

The project has received a 4 million EURO grant from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. Its results encompass the design of the launcher and the ground segment as well as prototypes of key components to demonstrate critical technology. The SMILE consortium consists of Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR), German Aerospace Centre (DLR), Nammo Raufoss AS, Terma, Andøya Space Centre (ASC), National Institute for Aerospace Research – INCAS, Airborne Composites Automation, Heron Engineering, ISIS – Innovative Solutions In Space (ISIS), 3D Systems Leuven, PLD Space, Tecnalia, BoesAdvies, and WEPA-Technologies.

Expanding market for small satellites

Nowadays, small satellites are accepted as a part of the ecosystem and the market for small satellites is rapidly expanding. These satellites however have to share a ride on a large launcher that is dedicated to a primary large satellite. This dictates the timeline and target orbit, which is often conflicting with the intended missions of the small satellites.

Objectives SMILE project

The first objective of the SMILE project is to design a concept for an innovative, cost-effective European launcher for small satellites and a Europe-based ground facility for small launchers based on the evolution of the existing sounding rocket launch site at Andøya Space Center in Norway. Another objective is to increase the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of critical technologies by developing prototypes of key components, such as rocket engines, structures, and avionics. The last objective is to create a roadmap for the small satellites launcher system from a technical, operational, and economical perspective.

The focus of the project is on cost-effectiveness of the technologies, such as reusable liquid rocket engines, low-cost hybrid rocket engines, unitary modular engines, automated manufacturing of composite structures, and commercial-of-the-shelf components. Especially for small launchers, cost reduction is essential to allow a competitive target price for a dedicated and timely launch.

More Information
Marina Petrozzi Ilstad
Director of Engineering

Telephone: +47 76 14 45 33