Aerospacelab, a Belgian company that designs, manufactures and operates small satellites, has teamed up with DUPUIS, a renowned publisher of comic albums and magazines, to launch a comic-inspired satellite into orbit. The satellite, named SPIP, is based on the Versatile Satellite Platform (VSP) developed by Aerospacelab and will perform Earth observation missions. The name SPIP also refers to the eponymous character from the popular comic series Spirou et Fantasio, created by DUPUIS in 1938. The mission patch of the satellite features the image of the squirrel, who is the faithful companion of Spirou, the main protagonist of the comics.
The collaboration between Aerospacelab and DUPUIS is a first of its kind, as it brings together the worlds of science and art in a novel way. The two Belgian companies share a common vision of innovation, creativity and exploration, and hope to inspire the public with their joint venture. Benoit Deper, CEO and founder of Aerospacelab, said: “Through the mission’s practical applications for Earth Observation and the meaningful symbolism of its patch, we hope this partnership helps to bridge the gap between science and the general public, highlighting the importance of space exploration and scientific pursuits.” Julie Durot, Managing Director at DUPUIS, added: “We would have never believed that fiction could become so close to reality for Spip! In the comics industry, space has always been one of the most inspiring themes for exploration. Having a satellite whose name comes from one of our historic characters with its dedicated mission patch is just incredible.”
The Launch of SPIP Satellite
The SPIP satellite is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, United States, on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, as part of the Transporter-9 mission. The launch is expected to take place no earlier than November 2023, and will be facilitated by Exolaunch, a German company that provides launch and deployment services for small satellites. The SPIP satellite will join a constellation of over 100 satellites that will be launched by SpaceX as part of its rideshare program, which offers low-cost access to space for small satellite operators.
The SPIP satellite is the fourth satellite to be launched by Aerospacelab, following the successful deployment of its PVCC satellite in October 2023. The SPIP satellite stands for “multiSPectral Imagery Prototype” and will carry a multispectral camera that can capture images of the Earth in different wavelengths of light. The satellite will also test a new propulsion system that will allow it to maneuver in orbit and avoid collisions with other satellites or space debris. The SPIP satellite will have a mass of about 40 kilograms and a lifespan of about five years.
The Applications of Earth Observation
The SPIP satellite will provide valuable data for various applications of Earth observation, such as agriculture, forestry, urban planning, environmental monitoring, disaster management and security. The satellite will be able to capture images of the Earth with a resolution of about 10 meters per pixel, and cover an area of about 100 kilometers by 100 kilometers per image. The satellite will also be able to transmit the images to the ground station within minutes, thanks to a high-speed radio link.
The SPIP satellite will be part of a larger constellation of satellites that Aerospacelab plans to deploy in the near future, with the aim of providing near-real-time and high-resolution imagery of the Earth. The company intends to launch at least 10 more satellites by 2024, and eventually reach a constellation of 100 satellites by 2026. The company also offers data analysis and processing services for its customers, using artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques. Aerospacelab hopes to become a leading provider of Earth observation solutions, and contribute to the development of the New Space industry in Europe and beyond.