Assembling satellites like Lego blocks – ESA Commercialisation Gateway

Space exploration is the ultimate frontier to discover new scientific and technical limits; however, inefficient designs, long lead times and incompatible components restrict access to space.

Space Products and Innovation (SPiN), thanks to the support provided by the incubation programme of ESA BIC Bavaria, is simplifying space manufacturing by transforming satellites into modular systems. The startup developed a Multipurpose Adapter Generic Interface (MA61C), a universal plug-and-play adapter for assembling satellites like Lego blocks.

Caption: SPiN-1 assembly at SPiN cleanroom in Darmstadt, Germany ( copyright, SPiN)

Using bespoke components combined with the lack of standardisation between suppliers induces high costs and long lead times, especially during integration. Many space ventures have failed because of an overly long time to market associated with high prices per unit. The adapter removes the need to choose an integration standard since it holds all available hardware interfaces increasing the design flexibility and access to components from different suppliers.

Caption: Testing MA61C CubeSat board for the “Flexible LEO CubeSat” (FLC) (copyright, SPiN)

This technology has been demonstrated through the in-orbit demonstration mission SPiN-1, launched in 2022. The CubeSat mission was assembled in 4 hours using MA61C, and it was launched in May on the SpaceX Transporter 5 Mission. The demonstration confirmed the reduction of design costs by 50%, production costs by 30%, and integration time by a year.

Caption: SPiN-1, 1U CubeSat (copyright, SPiN)

The MA61C prototype was developed during the ESA Business Incubation programme. In 2018, SPiN was one of the first upstream startups incubated at ESA BIC in Munich, Germany. Today, the commercial product is compatible with satellites ranging in size from CubeSats to traditional large satellites. This solution has won multiple awards for innovative technology and business model, such as Space2Business, Paris Space Week and Space2Connect competition. Thanks to MA61C, SPiN democratises access to space for new ventures and their clients.