NovaWurks Reveals Contracts, Expansion Plans, and Space Legos

LOGAN, Utah – After a series of aerospace demonstrations followed by years of secrecy, NovaWurks is ready to discuss contracts, customers and expansion plans.

NovaWurks struck nearly a decade ago when the Southern California startup proposed building spacecraft with identical box-shaped modules weighing about six kilograms. The modules, now trademarked as Slegos (short for Space Legos), provide the functions of conventional components such as pointing, information processing and data storage.

Designed to operate in geostationary orbit for 15 years, Slegos offers “tons of capability,” said Talbot Jaeger, founder and chief technologist of NovaWurks. SpaceNews at the small satellite conference.

Instead of custom-designing spacecraft to accommodate payloads, NovaWurks arranges Slego building blocks in different configurations.

“We don’t design, we configure,” Jaeger said. “Configuration doesn’t spend money on all that disposable technology.”

NovaWurks performed its first in-orbit demonstration in 2017 on the International Space Station. An astronaut assembled a small satellite by combining six modules, then called HISats, with deployable solar panels and an electro-optical imager in the NASA-sponsored Satlet Initial Proofs and Lessons mission.

In 2018, NovaWurks’ Payload Orbital Delivery Satellite, PODSat-1, a mission funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, reached geostationary transfer orbit. PODSat-1’s four Slegos with radio and antenna traveled to geostationary transfer orbit on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as a host payload that was later deployed from a Hispasat communications satellite.

Novawurks again demonstrated its modular approach through the 2018 eXperiment for Cellular Integration Technology, or eXCITe, mission. Another Falcon 9 sent eXCITe, one of 64 payloads on the rideshare plane, into low Earth orbit.

Together, the demonstrations provided NovaWurk’s information engineers needed to refine the approach. For more than two years, company executives revealed little about the company’s spaceflight demonstrations or future plans. At the time, NovaWurk’s engineers were busy upgrading Slegos.

“With all that testing, fixing, correcting, tweaking, we have a product now that’s ready, and we have people interested,” Jaeger said. “It was difficult to turn science fiction into fact. It took a lot of money and time, but it was worth it because we can switch places.”

Early demonstrations in orbit have led to contracts. To keep up, NovaWurks plans to more than double its employees by the end of the year from 20 to 50 people.

For example, NovaWurks is working with Saturn Satellite Networks to jointly develop Saturn’s NationSat, a small geostationary communications satellite.

NovaWurks is also working with NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency and the US Space Force Space Systems Command on a mission to measure solar energy reflected and absorbed by Earth. Data will be collected with a small telescope attached to NovaWurks Slegos. The project, called Athena, is a test of NovaWurks’ ability to turn around quickly.

During the pandemic, NovaWurks gave the space force another demonstration of the rapid treatment strategy. The Space Force gave NovaWurks three different payloads for spacecraft with different thermal and field of view requirements. The idea was that once Space Force chose one of the three payloads to fly, NovaWurks would have just 60 days to configure the spacecraft.

“When we said it was easy, they said 30 days was a stretch,” said Bill Crandall, NovaWurk’s vice president of business development.

The Space Force then chose one of the three payloads. It took NovaWurks five days to configure and power up the spacecraft to accommodate it. The response from the Space Force was, “Okay, take it apart and build another one,” Crandall said.

Again it took less than five days. NovaWurks captured the process on video to share with the Space Force “because they didn’t believe it,” Jaeger said.

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