Apex’s First Mass-Produced Satellite to Orbit in 2024

In the last several years, there has been a shift in how some satellite constellations are implemented. While legacy companies like Viasat continue to fly few, but extremely expensive and capable satellites, newer companies like Starlink fly thousands of relatively disposable satellites with nearly the same desired end effect. Startup satellite company Apex seeks to also mass produce smallsats, but not for their own use on orbit.

Apex is planning to launch their first satellite onboard SpaceX’s rideshare Transporter-10, tentatively scheduled for early 2024. The undisclosed sponsors for the first mission will finish their mission before handing the keys back to Apex for flight heritage testing on key subsystems. This testing detail is crucial, because Apex’s business model is to produce and sell a standardized satellite bus, designed to have minimal engineering impacts for custom configurations requested by customers.

Ideally, Apex would market its satellite buses across the space industry for a wide range of missions, where customers can focus on designing payloads instead of the entire satellite’s design. There are pros and cons to the cyber impacts of this business model. With the wide scope of possible missions, there are vastly more opportunities for a hacking group to fully scope out the satellite bus’ vulnerabilities. The design is no longer protected in a closed-loop system, and another entity’s lack of cybersecurity measures may impact all other companies utilizing that satellite bus. Hopefully, the savings passed on to organizations by purchasing a pre-built satellite bus will be used to bolster cyber security on the link, ground, and user segments, preventing this from occurring. After all, there are many other satellite bus providers who are addressing the same challenges.

The Apex User Guide, including payload interfaces, environments, and flatsat, are yet to be released on Apex’s website, but if paying customers are only providing payloads, Apex could own and run flight software and related updates, ensuring standardization and protection across its enterprise.