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Tyvak-0130 CubeSat Mission

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Tyvak 0130 is an optical spectrum astronomical technology demonstration satellite built by Tyvak on the CubeSat (6U) form factor. The technology was developed by Tyvak NanoSatellite Systems and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory under a four-year agreement to advance compact telescopes for commercial applications, Tyvak's CEO Christian "Boris" Becker said in an interview with SpaceNews. Becker, a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral, was recently named chief executive of Tyvak, a satellite manufacturer in Irvine, California, owned by Terran Orbital. 1)

The satellite carries a miniature space telescope called MonoTele for possible commercial use. The technology was developed by Tyvak NanoSatellite Systems and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) under a four-year agreement to advance compact telescopes for commercial applications. It is a high-resolution monolithic optical telescope system, fabricated from a single piece of fused silica, for deployment on small satellites. It is highly compact and extremely robust against vibration loads and temperature swings. It is the third flight of such a miniature telescope after GeoStare and Pathfinder Risk Reduction.

Tyvak, a manufacturer of small satellites, disclosed new details Monday about an experimental spacecraft launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Saturday, revealing plans to validate compact optical telescopes that could offer a new way to monitor space traffic and orbital debris. 2)

Tyvak, a manufacturer of small satellites, disclosed new details on May 17 about an experimental spacecraft launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Saturday, revealing plans to validate compact optical telescopes that could offer a new way to monitor space traffic and orbital debris.


Figure 1: File photo of a Tyvak-built 6U CubeSat being placed into its launch dispenser (image credit: Tyvak)

Tyvak said the new satellite builds on lessons learned from Tyvak 61, a smaller 3U CubeSat launched in 2018. Tyvak 61, also known as GeoStare, tested the performance of monolithic telescope design that could be used to collect remote sensing data for Earth observation, astronomy, and space debris tracking applications.

The monolithic telescope replaces the primary and secondary mirror structures in standard telescopes with one solid piece of glass, according to Tyvak and LLNL, with optical shapes and reflective coatings at both ends of the glass.


Figure 2: A space telescope, dubbed the V4 and an identical twin to this one, flew on LLNL's GEOstare 1 mission launched in 2018. The telescope was employed to demonstrate the utility of nanosatellites for space situational awareness (image credit: Julie Russell/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

LLNL's monolithic telescope design does not require precise alignment between two separate mirrors to ensure proper focusing, simplifying the design and allowing a smaller, less expensive spacecraft to carry the monolithic telescope, officials said.

Tyvak 61 "produced exceptional imagery of stellar fields and ground targets in the visible spectrum," the Tyvak spokesperson said.

The larger Tyvak-0130 satellite can accommodate twice the number of telescopes as the Tyvak 61 testbed. The new spacecraft is now in its commissioning phase, according to Tyvak.

The Tyvak- 0130 feature improvements to better track space objects and debris, and can see in multiple wavelengths simultaneously, Tyvak said.

"Once on-orbit performance validation is completed, Tyvak 0130 will be the most optimized commercial Space Situational Awareness (SSA) satellite available in the market today," the company said.

Launch: On Saturday, May 15 at 22:56 UTC (6:56 p.m. EDT) a SpaceX Falcon 9 vehicle launched a set of 52 Starlink satellites, the Capella-6 SAR microsatellite, and a Tyvak-0310 nanosatellite (6U CubeSat, mass of 11 kg) from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 3)


Figure 3: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on May 15, 2021, launched a batch of Starlink internet satellites into orbit — along with two rideshare satellites — from NASA's Kennedy Space Center (image credit: SpaceX)

Becker said Lawrence Livermore has "tremendous depth and expertise in imaging capabilities." The lab has developed mini-telescopes that range in size from one inch to 14 inches (Ref. 1).

Tyvak is studying options to commercialize the lab's space telescope technology, Becker said. "We'll see where this takes us. We've got work ahead of us to make sure that all the systems are operating as they should."

As incoming CEO, Becker said he sees growing opportunities for Tyvak's small satellite buses. The company supplies buses to sister company PredaSAR which plans to deploy a constellation of SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) imaging satellites.

Tyvak also is supplying buses to Lockheed Martin, which last year won a contract from the Pentagon's SDA (Space Development Agency) to provide 10 communications satellites. Becker said SDA will be an important customer for commercial space suppliers because it is "changing the way we acquire space systems in the Defense Department."

Two CubeSats built by Tyvak were launched in March by Rocket Lab for two separate Australian companies developing internet-of-things satellite constellations: Myriota 7 for Myriota and Centauri 3 for Fleet.


Figure 4: Artist's rendition of the deployed Tyval-0130 6U CubeSat (image credit: Tyvak)


Mission status

• June 17, 2021: Tyvak released the first images of objects in orbit and on the ground captured by telescopes the satellite manufacturer developed with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). 4)

- The technology demonstration satellite, Tyvak-0130, launched May 15 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rideshare flight. The two telescopes that make up Tyvak-0130's GeoStare2 payload "are producing super high-resolution images in a small form factor at a low cost," Marc Bell, CEO of Terran Orbital, Tyvak's parent company, told SpaceNews.


Figure 5: Tyvak-0130's GEOStare2 payload includes narrow and a wide field-of-view imagers. This images shows narrow and wide field-of-view images of Los Angeles International Airport as well as an image that zooms in on aircraft on the tarmac (image credit: Tyvak)

- Tyvak announced that it completed in-orbit checkout and commissioning of the shoebox-size satellite, which has transmitted more than 4,500 images.

- "Our payload is operating very well; we're ahead of schedule on the checkout," Wim de Vries, astrophysicist and associate program leader for LLNL's Space Science and Security Program, said in a statement. "The satellite is functioning extremely well."

- While many small satellites are observing objects on the ground, few have focused on gathering data on objects in orbit. SDW (Space Domain Awareness), previously called Space Situational Awareness, is a growing concern for satellite operators as spacecraft launches accelerate and space debris concerns mount.

- "It's much easier to conduct space domain awareness from space because you don't have to look through clouds and you don't have to wait for darkness," de Vries said in a statement.

- With satellite commissioning activities completed, Tyvak and LLNL plan to focus on conducting experiments to demonstrate capabilities including "responsive and on-demand terrestrial imaging with minimal delay" and space science, according to Tyvak's June 17 news release.

- Tyvak and LLNL are working together under a four-year, $6 million cooperative research and development agreement focused on mounting LLNL's Monolithic Telescope (MonoTele) technology on small satellites. MonoTele is a space telescope fabricated from a single, monolithic fused silica slab, which offers benefits in terms of spacecraft size, weight and power.

- Tyvak-0130 hosts one telescope with a narrow field of view to provide high resolution imagery and another with a wide field of view.


Figure 6: A composite false-color image of the Andromeda galaxy was created by stacking five wide-field-of-view channel images captured by a GeoStare2 telescope for an exposure of eight seconds. During this series of exposures, two satellites moved through the field of view (image credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

1) Sandra Erwin, "Tyvak satellite on SpaceX rideshare mission carries tiny space telescope," SpaceNews, 17 May 2021, URL:

2) Stephen Clark, "Tyvak smallsat launched by SpaceX to validate miniature space debris telescope," Spaceflight Now, 18 May 2021, URL:

3) "Recent Launch Starlink Mission," SpaceX, 15 May 2021, URL:

4) Debra Werner, "Tyvak and Lawrence Livermore National Lab release Earth and space images," SpaceNews, 17 June 2021, URL:

The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (

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