Smallsat industry considering standardized “launch unit”

Capitalism in space: The emerging smallsat industry is considering establishing a standard “launch unit,” similar in concept to the standardized container system used by the shipping industry on Earth, to ease payload scheduling and installation on rockets.

“Developing a standard Launch Unit, or Launch-U, for mid-sized smallsats — approximately the size between a toaster and a small refrigerator — will enable rideshares to be configured more quickly and efficiently, resulting in more launch opportunities at a lower cost,” Aerospace representatives said in a statement. “Aerospace [Corporation] is driving the Launch-U conversation by assembling representatives from industry, academia and government to set the mid-size smallsats standard.”

For example, this standardized container concept would make it easier for a smallsat to switch launch rockets should its initial ride get delayed.

The industry has already attempted some standardization with the cubesat idea, which universities have been using now for several decades, a standard-sized satellite structure that is ten centimeters to a side. This launch unit concept would add the standardization to the launch vehicle, creating a standard slot within rockets that could easily take on new satellites.