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SSL to Provide Access to Space for Small Satellite Constellation


SSL PODS will help enable NASA Explorers Program to study the Sun


PALO ALTO, Calif. – December 11, 2017 – SSL, a business unit of Maxar Technologies (formerly MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.) (NYSE: MAXR; TSX: MAXR) and a leading provider of innovative satellites and spacecraft systems, announced today that it has partnered with a team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the University of Michigan (UM) selected by the agency to conduct a Phase A mission study under NASA’s Explorers Program. SSL’s role in the mission, called the Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment (SunRISE), is to provide a ride beyond geosynchronous orbit (GEO) for a constellation of science-gathering small satellites. SSL will use its Payload Orbital Delivery System (PODS) technology to dispense the small satellites on-orbit as free-flyers.

Mission Principal Investigator Justin Kasper, Associate Professor in the University of Michigan’s Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering Department, will lead the SunRISE team that will use the small satellite constellation, operating as a synthetic aperture radio telescope, to address the critical heliophysics problems of how solar energetic particles are accelerated and released into interplanetary space.  Heliophysics is the study of how the Sun affects the environment of the Solar System. 

“Using the PODS system for our launch gives us the ability to deploy our constellation of small satellites beyond GEO for a fraction of the cost of a dedicated launch, enabling mission implementations that would not have been possible just years ago,” said Justin Kasper, mission principal investigator and associate professor, University of Michigan. “We are pleased that SSL is part of our mission study team, bringing the benefits of the commercial satellite industry to scientific research.”

“The Payload Orbital Delivery System was developed as an innovative solution for small satellites that need to reach GEO and beyond,” said Richard White, president of SSL Government Systems. “It’s a privilege to team with JPL and the University of Michigan on a mission that will benefit from our regular cadence of large communications satellite launches that often have room for hosted payloads and small rideshare payloads. The PODS system helps to provide flight opportunities for cost-capped missions that wouldn’t otherwise be feasible.”

By sharing a ride to space on an SSL-built satellite with PODS, the SunRISE mission benefits from the frequency of commercial launch schedules and a significantly reduced launch cost compared to a dedicated mission. SSL developed PODS in conjunction with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, with the expectation that it will play a key role in enabling cost-effective, high tempo access to space for small payloads on a wide variety of important commercial, government, and scientific missions beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

NASA is also leveraging SSL’s commercial capabilities and experience to help reduce cost on a variety of next-generation missions that enable groundbreaking robotics and automation technologies. These include a NASA Discovery Mission to explore the asteroid Psyche, the Restore-L mission to service satellites in LEO, and the Dragonfly program, which will demonstrate robotic satellite assembly on-orbit.

For more information on PODS and access to space, click here

About SSL
SSL, based in Palo Alto, California, is a leading provider of advanced spacecraft systems, with broad expertise to support commercial and government satellite operators and innovative space missions. The company designs and manufactures spacecraft for services such as direct-to-home television, video content distribution, broadband internet, mobile communications, in-orbit servicing, space exploration, and Earth observation. As a Silicon Valley innovator for 60 years, SSL’s advanced product line includes state-of-the-art small satellites, and sophisticated robotics and autonomous solutions for remote operations. SSL is a business unit of Maxar Technologies, a U.S. operating company (NYSE: MAXR; TSX: MAXR). For more information, visit
About Maxar Technologies
Maxar Technologies (formerly MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.) is a leading global provider of advanced space technology solutions for commercial and government markets including satellites, Earth imagery, geospatial data and analytics. As a trusted partner, Maxar Technologies provides unmatched end-to-end advanced systems capabilities and integrated solutions expertise to help our customers anticipate and address their most complex mission critical challenges with confidence. With more than 6,500 employees in 21 locations, the Maxar Technologies portfolio of commercial space brands includes: SSL, MDA, DigitalGlobe, and Radiant Solutions. Every day millions of people rely on Maxar Technologies to communicate, share information and data, and deliver insights that empower a better world. Maxar trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange and New York Stock Exchange as MAXR. For more information visit


SSL will provide a ride to space for a proposed SmallSat constellation that will study the Sun.
SSL will provide a ride to space for a proposed SmallSat constellation that will study the Sun.