Saber operations room

Space is inspiring, but the special infrastructure and expertise needed to plan missions and launch spacecraft can keep great ideas stuck on the ground.

However, an Australian-based company is working to change that.

Established in 2008, Saber Astronautics aims to help people convert their ideas ‘from a napkin sketch to space flight’.

Saber offers a range of mission design, pre-flight, diagnostics, and operations services, drawing on 4 research and development laboratories. It also operates the Adelaide-based Responsive Space Operations Centre (RSOC). The RSOC is the first national mission control centre in Australia. It is one of 7 projects supported by the Australian Space Agency’s Space Infrastructure Fund.

Saber has worked with major organisations like NASA, the US Space Force, and the Australian Defence Force. Now, the company is helping new space enterprises get off the ground with an innovative software design.

Open Galactic provides a user-friendly link between satellites and mission control centres. The project is supported by the $788,000 Expand Capability Grant. An early version focused on ground station control code was published in March 2022.

Fast-tracked space revenue

Saber CEO Dr Jason Held says Open Galactic speeds up the spaceflight process for new space companies, allowing them to start earning revenue faster.

“It’s a lot of hard work to connect a satellite to a mission control centre. Open Galactic eases the burden by providing a baseline framework of middleware software to get people started” said Dr Jason Held, Saber Astronautics.

The software is designed to be affordable, with some elements offered for free. It’s open-source, meaning companies can customise and adapt the code to suit their needs. It also allows users to mix products from different suppliers to support their missions.

“We are trying to do the opposite of vendor lock-in; we want people to share information, and give us a chance to grow together,” Jason says.

Open Galactic is making space more accessible with simplified processes. This has the potential to inspire more satellite enterprises and more revenue in Australia’s growing space market.

Delivering on the international stage

Saber is deploying Open Galactic on a string of missions in the near term. This includes TOLIMAN, a space telescope mission with linkages to multiple international space agencies and research organisations. The TOLIMAN mission is planned for 2023.

Open Galactic will support TOLIMAN’s pre-flight integration and testing, plus a year of on-orbit operations while the spacecraft scouts for planets around Alpha Centauri.

“TOLIMAN will be a very visible and exciting flight that involves researchers and engineers from the EU and scientists from the USA. It is a truly international consortium,” Jason says.

“Successful flight is really the metric people use to trust a new space industry product. So, we will use the TOLIMAN and other flights to support Open Galactic's acceptance in the market.”

Photo credit: Sarah Derbyshire