Grand in miniature: Companies based in Adlershof are leaders in the field of small satellites

25. September 2013

Grand in miniature

Companies based in Adlershof are leaders in the field of small satellites

Kleinsatelliten aus Berlin Adlershof. Bild: Adlershof Special

At Astro- und Feinwerktechnik Adlershof GmbH (Astrofein), the walls of the conference room proudly display an array of awards that cannot fail to impress. They all have something to do with small satellites. For instance, the employees numbering nearly eighty under Managing Director Michael Scheiding developed the bus for the microsatellite TET-1. “The advantages of our development are its extreme reliability and its huge range of payloads,” explained Scheiding.

Safe transport of picosatellites

Another development of this company set up in 1993 is the Single Picosatellite Launcher. This is responsible for the safe transport of picosatellites, i.e. tiny satellites weighing only about one kilogram, into space. The portfolio is supplemented with components like e.g. reaction wheels that permit precise positioning of satellite cameras.

Satellite platform SmallGEO

Astrofein is not the only company in Adlershof to specialise in satellite technology. Another is Space Structures GmbH that was founded in 2011 in Bremen and runs a Berlin office at the Adlershof Centre for Materials and Microsystems (CMM). One of the projects involving this company headed by Managing Directors Benjamin Braun und Florian Ruess is called SmallGEO. This is a European satellite platform serving primarily the telecommunications sectors. Among their achievements, the Space Structures team calculated the mechanical loads that the frame supporting the satellite platform can safely bear. In 2014, the first satellites of the SmallGEO mission are to be stationed in orbit.

Low Earth Orbit Satellite

Also a resident of the CMM is Berlin Space Technologies GmbH (BST). This concentrates exclusively on the field of small satellites: LEOS (Low Earth Orbit Satellite) is about as big as a refrigerator and is the successor to a model developed at the TU Berlin. The portfolio also includes satellite components like reaction wheels and the world’s smallest position controller. “Most of our customers are space agencies, universities, and companies in developing and newly industrialising countries,” said Tom Segert, Director of Business Development and cofounder of BST. The company then started to specialize in low cost solutions. “Our approach is not to increase satellite complexity, but in contrast to reduce the number of components and hence their susceptibility to faults,” explained Segert.

In addition, BST offers training courses in how to handle satellite technology. Customers can then pay a licence fee when they start building their own satellites. In all of this, the satellite specialists profit from the network of space companies based in Adlershof. For them, the future holds no worries. Tom Segert of BST is pleased: “Our order situation is highly encouraging.” And also Michael Scheiding of Astrofein concludes with satisfaction: “Small satellite technology is making good headway.”

By Christian Hunziker for Adlershof Special