Blog

08.21.2019

Maxar’s deep history in manufacturing innovative space infrastructure

By: Maxar Technologies


Read Time: 4 minutes

Maxar has a long history—62 years―of building and integrating spacecraft and space-based technologies, including robotics, to enable global communication, space exploration and on-orbit servicing.

Seven things you need to know about Maxar―where we’ve been and where we’re going.

1. Maxar played a role in every manned Mercury, Gemini and Apollo flight. Most notably, Maxar built NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston, which provided communications between the astronauts and Earth. Maxar also worked with IBM to build the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) program for NASA. These seismic and environmental instruments stayed on the Moon and sent back scientific data for analysis.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin installs a Maxar-built seismic instrument on the moon. Image: NASA.

2. Maxar also worked with NASA on the launch of Voyager 1 and 2 in 1977. These two pioneering spacecraft recently made history as the only human-made objects to go beyond our sun’s reach into interstellar space. We built the iconic high-gain antennas on the spacecraft, which continue to send communications back to Earth to this day.

The high-gain antenna on Voyager 1 and 2, the “dish” component seen in this image, were built by SSL, now Maxar. Image: NASA

3. Maxar built all five robotic arms currently on the surface of Mars. Our robotic arms are on three NASA rovers and two NASA landers. This past November, the NASA InSight Lander touched down on Mars, the first spacecraft landing on the Red Planet since Curiosity arrived in 2012. Maxar is also building a robotic arm for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover.

NASA’s InSight Lander caught a picture of the Maxar-built robotic arm against the Martian horizon. Image: NASA

4. Over the past 62 years, Maxar has built more than 280 satellites. Over 90 geostationary satellites are currently on orbit and nearly 100 small satellites for low earth orbit (LEO) have been built or are under construction.

The Maxar-built Nusantara Satu communications satellite was successfully launched February 22, 2019 and is performing according to plan. Image: Maxar

5. In May of this year, NASA announced it had selected Maxar to build and fly a spacecraft for the Lunar Gateway. The Power and Propulsion Element, which will be the first Gateway module launched, is a lunar-orbiting command module from which astronauts will travel to the moon’s surface. The Power and Propulsion Element is currently scheduled for launch on a commercial rocket in late 2022.

Maxar partners with Blue Origin and Draper to design, build and demonstrate operations of the Power and Propulsion Element, a spacecraft that could support returning humans to the moon by 2024.

6. In 2022, together with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and our partners at Arizona State University, Maxar will make history by launching a spacecraft to explore an asteroid called Psyche, which orbits in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Psyche is about the size of Massachusetts and is thought to be the only all-metal body in our solar system. Because it resembles Earth’s core, scientists expect the exploration of Psyche to provide critical information about how planets form. Maxar is providing a high-power solar electric propulsion spacecraft chassis based on our world-leading 1300 platform.

7. Maxar is building both the robotic arms and spacecraft bus for Restore-L, which will refuel a government-owned satellite in LEO and demonstrate fundamental capabilities for future NASA missions. Maxar is also collaborating with NASA to develop Dragonfly, an ultra-lightweight robotic system that will enable entirely new architectures and missions through on-orbit assembly, removing the need for large structures and components to endure traditional launch environments and volume limitations of the rocket fairing.

Restore-L will refuel the Landsat 7 Earth observation satellite in LEO.

Maxar’s space infrastructure capabilities connect Earth and space with resilient technology. The company is advancing space exploration and improving life on Earth. Explore more about our work in space.

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