Open Cosmos launches fourth satellite of 2023 to demonstrate latest technologies for telecommunications and earth observation constellations


arwell – Open Cosmos, the leading space company making satellites that gather data to solve pressing global challenges, has seen its fourth Earth Observation satellite of the year, ALISIO-1 launched. After a successful launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, onboard SpaceX's Falcon 9, ALISIO-1 has been deployed from the D-Orbit ION vehicle and is now in its final orbit. First contact from the ground was established shortly after deployment. This space mission is packed with innovation, with technologies developed under the UK Space Agency-funded ESA PIONEER Programme.

ALISIO-1, which stands for Advanced Land-Imaging Satellite for Infrared Observations, is a 6U satellite developed for the Instituto Astrofísico de Canarias (IAC) aimed at revolutionising Earth monitoring capabilities and enhancing optical communications from space.

Precise observations which would be invisible to the human eye

The primary payload aboard ALISIO-1, DRAGO-2, is a unique compact uncooled and camera operating in the Short-Wave Infrared (SWIR) range, providing a unique vantage point invisible to the human eye. This powerful tool will generate precise observations of the Canary Islands, as well as other regions around the globe, playing a vital role in various applications including wildfire monitoring, volcano activity monitoring, oil spill detection, desertification control & crop humidity among others.

The ALISIO-1 satellite will also host an optical communications terminal for Space-Earth communications. This technology employs laser beams which can transmit data through the vacuum of space, offering several advantages over traditional radio-frequency (RF) communication methods - such as enhanced data transfer and heightened security due to the narrow beam nature of laser signals. This marks a significant step forward for future space missions and satellite communications, where robust and secure communication channels are paramount.

As well, as part of its design and build, this satellite also validated a suite of technologies where every test is recorded digitally from the moment the satellite is created. The record acts as a digital history along the satellite lifecycle, enabling faster problem identification and resolution both during the development and operational phase. This semi-automated approach ultimately enhances Open Cosmos’s capability to deliver space missions faster, more reliably and affordably. 

Florian Deconinck, Vice President for Growth at Open Cosmos, said: The Pioneer partnership is instrumental in developing space missions in an affordable, efficient and reliable manner for customers. We have been able to digitalise many parts of the mission lifecycle process from design to test recording as well as operations. This is fundamental to growing our business capability for satellite constellations, increasing our delivery speed while maintaining our impeccable 100% reliability in orbit. Our innovation combined with ESA’s expertise and guidance illustrates how NewSpace and legacy space can join forces to help address some of the biggest challenges

Stephane Lascar, Head of Telecommunications Satellite Programmes at ESA, said: “The successful launch of the ALISIO-1 mission, as part of the ESA Pioneer Partnership Project SAPION, demonstrates the high value and effectiveness of the Pioneer programme. Through this programme ESA supports European New Space industry to develop,  grow and demonstrate in orbit their space business solutions and become Space Mission Providers"

Henny Sands,  Head of Telecoms at UK Space Agency, said: “The successful launch marks another major milestone for Open Cosmos, as the company continues to grow and expand its operations in the UK. The infrared camera on the ALISIO-1 satellite will monitor a range of environments and the innovative optical communications terminal will demonstrate a more secure and reliable way of transmitting valuable data from space, back to Earth. It’s a great example of how advanced communications technologies can support satellite Earth observations and other applications, with the backing of the UK and European space agencies."

This satellite launch marks a successful 2023 for Open Cosmos. The company has now launched a total of four satellites this year, including MANTIS (high-resolution imagery to monitor logistics and natural resources) and Platero (combining EO and IoT to monitor biodiversity). As well, in September Open Cosmos raised $50M in Series B funding from leading impact investors, ETF Partners, Trill Impact and A&G to accelerate international growth and expand its offering.