Mission Space Logistics: DHL Moves From Global to Galactic Forwarding
DHL Global Forwarding have partnered with D-Orbit, a specialized company covering the entire lifecycle of a space mission, including logistics services, for the first time.
Together with the company’s own innovation team DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation (CSI), the freight forwarding expert set up logistics to help the ION Satellite Carrier in its journey into space.
Developed and designed by D-Orbit, the satellite carrier is planned to launch at Cape Canaveral, the world’s most famous space base in Florida in January 2021.
Tim Scharwath, CEO, DHL Global Forwarding, Freight, states: “We are excited about this partnership for two key reasons. First, D-Orbit shares our vision of reliable, safe and sustainable logistics to connect people and to improve lives.
"D-Orbit developed its solutions by placing intelligent, safe, and efficient orbital transportation at the heart of its corporate vision, for commercial and human expansion that must be – first and foremost – sustainable.
"Secondly, this project came to life because of collaboration within the company. It is a perfect example on how we work closely together with our innovation experts from DHL CSI to develop pioneering industry-tailored solutions and put innovation into practice.“
Mario Zini, CEO of DHL Global Forwarding Italy said: “With the advent of satellite constellations and habitable bases, space logistics is an emerging niche within the industry.
"While the core of logistics remains the same, whether in space or on Earth, more stringent constraints and extreme conditions challenge the safe transport, storage, and delivery of materials and products beyond Earth’s atmosphere and back.
“There are enormous opportunities on the horizon for service providers in this sector. We firmly believe in the possibility of developing cutting-edge and sustainable solutions, especially for the transportation and storage of the future.”
ION Satellite Carrier is a cargo vehicle for microsatellites, able to transport them into orbit and release them into precise orbital slots, guaranteeing faster deployment, more rapid commissioning, and a more efficient use of their lifespan.
The satellite carrier, with a total weight of around 200 kg, was loaded into a special metal platform to be shipped from Milan Malpensa airport to Miami with a stopover in Luxembourg, on December 13.
After an eleven-hour flight, DHL brought the ION Satellite Carrier to Cape Canaveral via road freight. Along with the satellite carrier, a comprehensive set of essential test equipment was transported, equipment that ensures the satellite’s integrity and safety before it is launched into space.
In January 2021, after lengthy analysis and strict controls, the ION Satellite Carrier will be launched into space.
Satellite logistics is the newest facet of the logistics industry, with tens of thousands of low- and medium-Earth-orbit (LEO and MEO) satellites expected to be launched in the next few years.
Expansive constellations of hundreds to thousands of linked orbiters are planned to provide various services from global internet provision to data collection. In tandem with this, many operators are seeking viability by cutting launch, operational, and decommissioning costs.
D-Orbit, headquartered in Italy, targets this demand with solutions that are not unlike those offered by logistics companies on Earth, delivering satellites to their proper destination in orbit and providing close-up damage inspection services.
D-Orbit estimates that it can save satellite operators 40% in costs for constellation deployment and extend satellite life by up to five years.
Jonathan Firth, Chief Operating Officer at D-Orbit said: “The success of our recent ION Satellite Carrier mission established D-Orbit as the first orbital transport company, with the ability to deploy satellites into precise orbital slots."