The proposed SSC has direct applicability to the cooling of small, infrared sensors requiring a focal plane operating temperature between 70K and 180K. This encompasses a wide range of low earth orbit (LEO) imaging sensors, interplanetary orbiters, and on surface interplanetary explorers. Extended applicability to lower temperatures, say to 30K, is enabled with the addition of a second cooling stage. More broadly, the advanced electronics technology being developed is readily scaled up, extending the applicability to the electronics to encompass virtually any linear (Stirling or pulse tube) type cryocooler.
West Coast Solutions envisions tremendous commercial potential for the SmallSat Cryocooler as it will be the first such device of its kind. Competing designs fail to take into account the inherent deleterious vibration and power bus impacts, making the SSC a far more attractive, more easily integrated option. Based on the deployment of traditional macro scale space cryocoolers, the expected production opportunities for the SSC on non-NASA USG and foreign government orbital missions is limited to just a few a year, but we do not believe this is the right perspective. The interest in this cryocooler is based upon the emergence of a new class of substantially lower cost low earth orbit satellites, such as CubeSats of various sizes from 1U up to 6U (20 cm x 30 cm x 10 cm), which can be affordably deployed in large numbers, and indeed for which the mission is only satisfied by such a constellation. For example, in February 2014 Planet Labs deployed 28 CubeSats comprising Flock 1 to image the Earth in the visible band. For a comparable infrared constellation, each satellite would require a SSC. Envisioning three such missions per year by 2019, the production opportunity for the cryocooler subsystem is on the order of 28 x 3 x $20,000 = $1.68M in government sales alone.