Roxane, a project in orbit

Key figures

3 times

Growth of microsatellites in 5 years

250
Kg

ROXANE micro-launcher’s payload

600
Km

ROXANE’s altitude

Miniaturization is revolutionizing the commercial satellite and launch vehicle industry. The micro-launch vehicle project led by Bertin Technologie, a subsidiary of CNIM Group, in partnership with the CNES (Centre national d’études spatiales) from January 2014 to December 2015 confirmed our ability to stake out a position in this market.

Since 2000, the number of small stallites has tripled every five years. They are chiefly used for communications and observation purposes.

Microsatellites: a rapidly expanding market

The microsatellite market emerged in the decade after 2000 and is now taking off. Thousands of devices with weights varying from a few kilos to a few hundred kilos –as opposed to several tonnes for traditional satellites– will be launched over the next ten years.

They will have two main fields of use:

  • one is communications,  with  the  goal  of  providing  genuine  global  Internet  coverage
  • the second is Earth observation, where the aim is to open up access to ultra high-resolution satellite imaging to new providers and to new uses such as the management of natural resources, transport management, urban planning and the monitoring of climate risks.

Ten years of collaboration with CNES

Rather than placing one or two large satellites far out in space, the strategy for start-ups in this market is to put ‘constellations’ of tens or hundreds of low-cost microsatellites in lower orbits. This requires specialized low-cost launch systems to be developed that will be more flexible and quicker to get moving than traditional heavy launchers

Cédric Dupont, Head of Project Roxane at Bertin Technologies

Working under a two-year contract with the CNES, we have sought to meet this need with the design for a micro-launcher that can carry a 250 kg payload to an altitude of 600 km.

During this project, our staff drew on lengthy R&D experience in the space sector, and in particular on the know-how built up over more than ten years of cooperation with the CNES. As well as participating in several launch vehicle projects, we have been lead contractor since 2005 for the software platform for the preliminary design of HADES new generation space transport systems, making use of innovative multidisciplinary optimization techniques.

A turnkey launch system

« Our HADES software platform enables us to model and simulate new launch systems and optimize them in both technological and economic terms »,  explains Cédric Dupont. « With Roxane, that has led to innovative architectural choices that will cut the industrial development costs of the micro-launcher »

For example, to bring the final stage –the orbiter– to its operating altitude, a two-stage booster is used with identical motors in each stage. This robust motor design uses a “green” mixture of liquid methane and liquid oxygen. The combustion chamber is fed by electric pumps.

Project manager view

Roxane exploits innovative architecture and motor choices which cut the industrial development costs of the micro-launcher 

Cédric Dupont, Head of Project Roxane, Bertin Technologies

An end-to-end service

Analysis of the market potential has led to the proposal of an end-to-end launch service that goes beyond the vehicle itself: Project Roxane thus also includes:

  • on-the-ground operations at the Kourou space center in French Guiana,
  • preparation of the satellite,
  • associated sales services.

Starting in 2016, Bertin Technologies aims to carry out complementary design studies with a view to commencing sales in 2023-2025.

CNES_Jerome_VILA_web.jpg

The development model for micro-launchers differs from the essentially state-funded model used for traditional rockets. Here, the role of the CNES was essentially to create initial lift-off by ordering feasibility studies from industrial companies. In Bertin Technologies we found a perfect partner for Project Roxane who had genuine expertise in the field and was able to take a highly pragmatic approach

Jérôme Vila, Head of Innovation, Outlook and Future Projects Division, CNES / Launcher Management