The advent of small launch vehicles has enabled the launch of small satellites on-demand into optimized orbits at affordable costs, leading to a rapid expansion of the small/micro satellite market. However, these small launch vehicles are inherently limited to LEO and currently struggle to support NASA’s push for lunar exploration. ExoTerra’s Solar Electric Propulsion Upper Stage augments small launch vehicles to enable missions to GEO, Trans-Lunar Injection, Earth-Moon Lagrange Points, Lunar Near Rectilinear Halo Orbits, and Low Lunar Orbit. We have partnered with Virgin Orbit to develop an upper stage tailored to Virgin’s LauncherOne that can deliver up to 168 kg to the Moon, enabling low-cost lunar exploration using small satellites and landers. This will aid in NASA's push to establish a permanent outpost on the Moon by providing a steady cadence of microsatellite scale support missions to the Moon such as CLPS landers, observers, GPS and telecom relays.
The SEP Upper Stage has several NASA applications. The system can deliver scientific microsatellites to Low Lunar Orbit, NRHO or Halo orbits at the LaGrange points. It can also deliver small landers on a direct descent trajectory. Beyond the Moon, the Upper Stage can be tailored to deliver satellites to interplanetary trajectories from a GTO launch. Finally, the Upper Stage can be modified for use as a bus to take advantage of its advanced propulsion and power system.
The SEP Upper Stage can be used to deliver satellites to MEO or GEO as well. This has applications for delivering commercial microsatellites to GEO. It can also be used to deliver defense satellites to GEO from a small launch vehicle as well.