Proud and humbled at the same time we like the world to know we have been selected by the ESA director general mr Joseph Aschbacker to be the third prize winner of the ESA Global Space Markets Challenge.
The ESA ESA – Small and Medium Sized Enterprises website shows some more details but in short Lens R&D came in third.
As a result we will be present at the IAC in Dubai to collect our prize and get the stage to promote our products.
For those intimate with the history of Lens R&D it is obvious that this is to be seen as a reward for the long struggle that have led to the existence of the few products that we sell.
Almost ten years of developing testing and improving have led to Sunsensors that are now ready for incorporation in many missions.
The post is a bit late with respect to the notification that we won the prize due to a heavy workload associated with the delivery and testing of the Sunsensors for the CNES MMX rover (going to Phobos one of the moons of Mars) the Sunsensors for SSTL’s Lunar pathfinder mission (going to the Moon) and tens of sensors for ISISpace intended for among others the KLEOS constellation satellites and (last but not least) the initiation of a series of 100 MAUS Sunsensors intended to finally bring the Space Grade Commercial Off the Shelf (SCOTS) approach to the market that we have been advertising for such a long time already.
Despite all the serious setbacks that we experienced over the last (almost ten) years of existence and even surviving the program delays caused by the still ongoing Corona crisis we managed to survive and reach a stage where ESA recognises that even very small companies like Lens R&D can bring significant innovations to the market.
Being highly specialized in high reliability Sunsensors, our product portfolio is very limited but excels in quality to cost ratio and scalability of production.
Although currently sales is mainly limited to ESA countries and the USA, (with some exceptions) it is expected that the customer base will extend due to the winning of this prize.
Over the years we have experienced that it is difficult for very small companies to be taken seriously by the large system integrators despite the fact that the quality of the products is generally recognized. Hopefully this ESA endorsement for all the efforts as we put in (as we see it) will open some doors that have been kept shut for years and will lead to an international breakthrough.
Space is a very international market and it is difficult for a small company to advertise their products at all the right places without spending more money on marketing than on product development. Making the large system integrators aware of your existence has proven to be difficult as it is difficult to get in contact with the key stake holders (AOCS systems engineers and commodity managers in our case). Furthermore liability issues make it difficult for large companies that are bound to a lot of internal red tape to order flight components with a very small company.
Over the years we have done many environmental tests on our components ranging from 56g random through 15.000g pyro shocks and 30.000 thermal cycles to liquid nitrogen dipping of components and -125°..+125° Thermal vacuum cycling.
Due to many errors we made, many improvements we found and strict quality rules we impose upon ourselves we have been in a continuous cycle of product improvement but now the time has come to freeze our first designs and start volume production.
This by the way in no way implies we are done developing products, as we are already working on the next generation products like a radiation hardened true digital Sunsensor based on a dedicated ASIC. After all, the company will remain Lens Research & Development and we will keep our focus on Innovation, even if it is the place to come to when quality counts and budgets matter 🙂
P.S. Many thanks to both the current and former employees of Lens R&D for enabling this achievement.