It took more than six and a half year before we could enjoy below lines.
These simple lines are part of the launch manifest of a Falcon 9 to be launched on 19th of November 2018. The VESTA Satellite developed by SSTL for Honeywell and the ExactEarth constellation will be the first satellite to carry one of our BiSon64-B Sunsensors to space. Although we have delivered flight sensors to multiple missions no mission has flown yet. Consequently the VESTA satellite will mark the transformation from TRL8 to TRL9.
One might wonder why it took so long to have a first flight qualification as nowadays people develop and fly space hardware in less then two years (some even in less than one year). The reason is simply because we are convinced that in the end the reliability of the devices flown is of prime importance to our customers and will prove to be a discriminator between Sunsensor manufacturers. Specifying something and keeping up appearances as long as nobody is individually checking the actual performance and rigidity of design is one thing. Specifying something and proving you meet ESA specifications even after rigorous environmental tests is something completely different. If in addition to this you want to focus on optimising for volume production and repeatability it is not possible to use just any manufacturer than can finish a job in a cost effective way. Instead a carefully selected supplier base is needed that can be relied on in the long run, The quality of all components will need to be checked and maintained, and it need to be ensured that proper procedures are defined and followed. Last but not least it requires to design, build and verify dedicated assembly and test equipment.
At Lens R&D we are proud to say that a team of capable people both at Lens R&D and our suppliers have redefined the world standard on Sunsensor environmental endurance and quality to cost ratio.
Once the first measurement data has been received, we will have all data available needed to show with a high degree of confidence that our sensors are capable of meeting (or exceeding) all requirements that can sensibly be posed to an analogue Sunsensor.