A small step towards making space more accessible is the emergence of smaller satellites, called CubeSats. These can weigh in the span of 0.2kg to 40kg and be launched in bulk. For example, SpaceX recently launched more than 100 CubeSats with a single launch vehicle.
While their size offers cheaper launches, they tend to have a drawback: they lack any means of propulsion to achieve said size. With little to no ability to correct course and maintain orbit, debris collisions are dangerous, and lifespan is limited. That's what Porkchop, a startup founded by two alumni from KTH Royal Institute of Technology, intends to solve.
"When you start making satellites smaller they become cheaper, but you often lose functionality", says founder and KTH alumnus Matija Milenovic.
Consisting of a mere four people, Porkchop has developed an integrated system where the fuel, engine, and electronics are a single, compact component attached to a satellite of the user's choice. The name of their business is a reference to a chart that depicts how much fuel a spacecraft needs to perform a certain maneuver on different arrival and departure dates from/to a given planet, a chart that tends to look like nothing other than a pork chop.
After being attached to a Laika satellite, it was launched into space aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on January 13.
"We will try to fire the propulsion system on one side to rotate the satellite. If we succeed with that, we will be really happy. In the future, we’re aiming to build on this technology to become an in-space logistics company for the satellites of tomorrow", Matija expands.