Credit: SatRevolution/Virgin Orbit/Screengrab Inside Outer Space

A new consortium has been established to design and carry out the world’s first dedicated commercial small satellite mission to Mars.

Nearly a dozen Polish universities have teamed up with Poland-based satellite company SatRevolution and Sir Richard Branson’s small satellite launch company, Virgin Orbit, to carry out the task.

Credit: SatRevolution/Virgin Orbit/Screengrab Inside Outer Space

First of up to three

The parties established the consortium this week at a formal signing ceremony during the Impact Mobility’19 rEVolution conference in Katowice, Poland. The consortium will jointly develop the first in a series of up to three Mars missions, with the initial launch expected as early as three years from now.

According to a statement, preliminary work conducted by the consortium has shown that spacecraft as small as 110 pounds (50 kilogram) or less can be used for a broad range of opportunities for scientific study, such as collecting imagery of Mars and its moon Phobos, analyzing the Martian atmosphere, or even such an ambitious endeavor as looking for underground reservoirs of water.

Credit: SatRevolution/Virgin Orbit

Go-to country

SatRevolution is headquartered in Wroclaw, Poland. The group will be primarily responsible for the design and manufacturing of the small satellite, providing its basic subsystems.

In April 2019, SatRevolution sent its Światowid spacecraft into Earth orbit, Poland’s first commercial nanosatellite. “We want Poland to be ‘the go-to’ country for small interplanetary spacecraft,” said Grzegorz Zwoliński, SatRevolution president.

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