Adjusting to the “New Space” Era: The Next Generation of Space Gyroscopes

Cielo Inertial Solutions, which has developed technologies for the space industry for the past 20 years, has developed a “light” version of its flagship product – the Starlight 1000 space gyroscope – called Starlight 10, which will be available for “New Space” markets. “We’ve implemented some innovative technologies and have miniaturized components from the original product to adjust performance and costs to customer requirements”, says Dr. Amit Brandes, VP of Business Development & Programs.

Satellites in outer space need to maintain their orientation in relation to the Earth and their orbit. The requirement for accurate directional orientation comes in part from the payloads installed on the satellite, so that they will function properly. For example, observation systems taking images of the Earth need to be oriented in the right direction of the required object. This is not an easy task with observation distances of hundreds of kilometers from Earth’s surface and an accuracy requirement of only a few dozen meters. To succeed in this task, satellites use gyroscopes. These devices measure the angular motion and angular orientation of the satellite and keep it in orbit.

Cielo has been developing inertial technologies and sensors for the past 20 years, with a focus on gyroscopes. Its flagship product for Space applications is the Starlight 1000, used by several operators of space satellites. The Starlight 1000 is a particularly high performance and expensive product that usually fit governments’ needs, but it is less adequate for private companies working in what is now called the “New Space”.
While the Legacy Space is an arena where only countries and governments operate their space programs, the New Space brings the mysteries of space to the commercial arena, where private companies engage in space exploration.
Dr. Amit Brandes showcasing Cielo’s space products | Photo: Cielo Inertial Solutions Ltd
Dr. Amit Brandes showcasing Cielo’s space products | Photo: Cielo Inertial Solutions Ltd


High levels of verification and reliability
To fill this need, Cielo decided to develop a “light” version of the Starlight 1000 space gyroscope – the Starlight 10, which is offered to the New Space market. The product is currently in advanced stages of development and verification, and the company is already showcasing it in space shows around the world.

“Starlight 10 borrows components and technologies from Starlight 1000 in miniaturized versions, which reduces manufacturing complexities and costs and allows the company to offer it for a significantly lower price of the original product. This way, the requirements of New Space customers are met, with a performance level that is suitable for their needs, and a price that allows them to put many gyroscopes into space,” says Dr. Amit Brandes, Cielo’s VP of Business Development & Programs.

Explain Starlight 10’s technology“It is a compact case holding three gyroscopes– the number required for the full orientation of a system in space. This system is intended for use with several applications: high-accuracy observation systems, accurate pointing of communication antennas, satellite constellations that need to maintain accurate relative position between satellites and in-orbit navigation tasks. While Starlight 1000’s typical measurement error is 0.001 degree per hour, the typical error with Starlight 10 is 0.1 degree per hour, which is more than enough for most of the requirements in the New Space domain. One of the main advantages of Starlight 10 is that is shares core elements with its predecessor and therefore offers high levels of verification and reliability.”
Cielo’s production facilities | Photo: Cielo Inertial Solutions Ltd.
Cielo’s production facilities | Photo: Cielo Inertial Solutions Ltd.

The new approach: launch more – and cheaper
Cielo was established in 2005, built on the basis of technology developed by a start-up in the field of optical communication in the 1990s. Since 2014, the company is owned by a joint venture of Rafael (Israel) and Kearfott (USA). Over the years, the company has been focusing on its core technology:

closed-loop fiber-optic gyro (FOG). Smart munitions, electro-optic observation, geo-location, control and navigation – Cielo’s systems provide solutions for all of them. The systems are used by the leading Israeli defense industries in their state-of-the-art products, as well as in the United States and other international markets.

Are there any other differences between the “Legacy” and the “New” product?

“Legacy Space industry look for systems that can last 20 years in space, however, the approach of the New Space industry is to launch more – and cheaper. That’s why the survivability standard of Starlight 1000 is higher, and this affects its price accordingly. This product goes through a lot of scrutiny before it leaves our production line, so customers know they can trust its performance in space over a long period of time. The New Space industry is happy to waive some of the reliability and survivability tests in exchange for a more cost-effective solutions. Based on the accumulated over 400,000 work hours in space of our Legacy Systems, we have designed the Starlight 10 in unique way that implements the essentials of our lessons learned acting in Space. We expect a very high level of reliability and survivability of the Starlight 10 in Space to meet the New Space requirements and applications”.