Today, Crystalspace specializes in the rapid design and production of satellite camera systems. Their clients can be found worldwide — from private companies to research institutes, universities, and space agencies like the European Space Agency. Crystalspace has developed payloads for many satellites and was part of the European Space Agency Business Incubator (ESA BIC Estonia) from 2017-2019.
Developing on a deadline
Getting these small cameras to the Moon is no small feat. Crystalspace’s team had all the necessary capabilities to develop the cameras in-house, but with a tight deadline, and other projects in the works, they needed some help. Crystalspace already had a camera to work from, but it needed some tweaking to get to the Moon and withstand harsh temperatures ranging from -173C to +100C, among other considerations.
Krakul stepped in and improved the electronics and embedded software. Crystalspace and the Tartu Observatory of the University of Tartu worked on system integration, design, and optics.
Designing for space
The space domain looks for reliable and established business partners — breaking into the game is difficult for newcomers. Procurements are usually published years before a project launches, and companies must be able to offer support for 10 to 15 years after a product has launched. This means that the whole lifecycle of a project can be 20 or more years. Though Crystalspace hasn’t been on the scene for that long, the proof is in their project history and reliable tech.
The Crystalspace team has solidified its name and built a reputation for quality and reliability. Years earlier, they had been added to NASA’s procurement vendors list, as well as the International Space Agency’s list. Once they were selected by Maxar for the SAMPLR project, discussions took place to understand needs, parameters, and technical aspects. Crystalspace, therefore, needed an equally reliable partner to deliver.
Just like with many industries, when designing and building for space, there are specific standards. For example, the European Space Agency maintains ECSS standards for space flight models, hardware, and software. As a procurement partner under NASA and ESA, Crystalspace entrusts its partners to follow these standards. While developing the cameras, we had to pay attention to the components, materials, solder, and composition used. With a camera to work off of, we made changes based on Maxar’s specs. Crystalspace provided us with the software and the changes that needed to be made. We had guidelines and standards the cameras had to meet, but how we got there was up to us.