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D-Orbit / ION Satellite Carrier

D-Orbit is a trailblazer in the field of space logistics and orbital transportation, with a global presence in Italy, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States. As the world’s first B-Corp-certified space company, D-Orbit is dedicated to promoting sustainable and socially responsible business practices. The company was founded in 2011 with the goal of creating the logistics infrastructure that will enable the space sector to grow and flourish beyond the solar system.

The modern space industry is currently in a state of transition, moving away from large, high-cost satellites towards constellations of hundreds or thousands of smaller, low-cost satellites orbiting in formation along multiple planes to provide global services. This new satellite architecture, made possible by advances in miniaturization and reduction in launch costs, requires innovative solutions to reduce the cost and improve the efficiency of fleet management, refuel and service aging satellites, and remove, recycle, and dispose of any space object that has outlived its usefulness.

D-Orbit addresses these needs with a family of services enabled by its proprietary orbital transfer vehicle (OTV) ION Satellite Carrier. Typically launched into a common parking orbit through rideshare, ION carries a batch of satellites and other payloads inside its capable payload bay. Like a cargo van performing last-mile deliveries, it then travels across orbits releasing each spacecraft individually into a precise and independent orbital slot. This feature enables deployment strategies previously not available for mega-constellations, allowing for example the even distribution of a batch of spacecraft along an orbital plane with a time saving of up to 85% from launch to operations, and a cost-saving of up to 40% for the launch of an entire satellite constellation.

ION can also be used to deliver satellites to unusual orbits not commonly served by rideshare launchers, providing an affordable alternative to dedicated micro launchers. Furthermore, ION can accommodate multiple third-party payloads on a single mission thanks to its plug-and-play mechanical, electrical, and data interface that allows for quick integration of any sort of payload, simplifies the certification process, and creates the opportunity to shift launch schedules in case of delays. This feature allows startups, research organizations, and tech companies to test and validate innovative technologies, scientific experiments, and space hardware in orbit.

The services offered through ION Satellite Carrier are a leap forward in the field of space logistics and orbital transportation destined to play a vital role in enabling the growth and expansion of the space sector in the years to come. With seven successful commercial missions since 2020, including one with two IONs, ION boosts a track record of more than 90 payloads transported to orbit. In its various evolutionary steps, ION achieved several milestones, including:

  • First successful commercial use of an uncrewed, multi-purpose, highly maneuverable orbital transfer vehicle in history.
  • First successful use of fast dispersion, a deployment technique that significantly reduces phasing time of the satellites belonging to a constellation reducing time to market, increasing the useful life of the spacecraft themselves, and optimizing launch costs.
  • Successful orbital validation of an innovative plug-and-play mechanical, electrical, and data interface, used to integrate and operate two third-party commercial payloads.
  • Successful orbital test of a space-cloud infrastructure, that enables other spacecraft to offload computations and perform machine learning algorithms directly in space
  • Successful deployment of ADEO-N, a braking sail module designed by HPS for the residue-free disposal of a spacecraft.
  • First successful execution of a combined orbit inclination and RAAN (right ascension of the ascending node) shift maneuver to release a couple of satellites, speeding up the deployment of the constellation by several months and demonstrating ION’s capability to perform complex orbital maneuvers that had previously never been performed by an OTV.

D-Orbit is also developing a new fully modular spacecraft designed to provide services like refueling, repair, and disposal in low Earth orbit, mid-Earth orbit, geostationary orbit, and beyond. 

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Projects evaluation criteria

Level of Impact
40%
Scalability
30%
Transparency
20%
H-Factor
10%

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