Thales Alenia Space has signed a contract with Canadian company NorthStar Earth and Space to commence work on smallsat satellites.

Under the contract, Thales Alenia Space will develop and produce the first three smallsat satellites for NorthStar’s ‘Skylark’ constellation.

These satellites will be developed around LeoStella’s LEO-100 Multi-Mission Bus and a compact optical instrument.

They will become part of the world’s first and most advanced commercial space-based environmental and near-space monitoring system.

Thales Alenia Space CEO Herve Derrey said: “Through the Space Alliance, Thales Alenia Space is proud to play a key role in the NorthStar’s success.

“NorthStar’s Skylark space-based system will generate unique and outstanding data to build value-added services for space situational awareness.

“Skylark signifies a first step in providing much needed timely and precise information to the satellite operators.”

Thales Alenia Space will assume the space system activities and supply the payloads. It will work with the LeoStella joint venture (JV) between BlackSky and Thales Alenia Space.

US-based LeoStella will deliver satellite platform, assembly, integration and test facilities.

The first three satellites are expected to launch in 2022 while the complete system of 12 satellites is expected in 2024.

LeoStella CEO Mike Hettich said: “The NorthStar space situational awareness constellation brings unique capabilities of free-flying non-Earth imaging satellites to the commercial sector.”

Earlier this month, Thales Alenia Space signed an Authorization To Proceed (ATP) with Airbus Defence and Space, to contribute to the Earth Return Orbiter (ERO), as part of the Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission.

The Thales Alenia Space JV comprises Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%).