The FutureList – Step into the Future



Coverage of top innovators and technology trends from across The FutureList community

Innovations Beyond Giants: Exploring Innovators Leading the Charge in Space Exploration

By Eric Kamande

In the field of space travel, where industry heavyweights like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin dominate headlines, lesser-known entities are emerging as significant contributors to space innovation. Today, we spotlight two such companies—NanoAvionics and Astroscale—whose impactful contributions are quietly reshaping the trajectory of space exploration.

NanoAvionics: Redefining Small Satellite Platforms

NanoAvionics, now part of Kongsberg Defense & Aerospace, stands out as a trailblazer in the realm of small satellites. Recognised for its commercial-grade platform, the Lithuanian startup seamlessly integrates flight computers, ADCS, communication sub-systems, and small satellite propulsion systems on a single PCB. Since its inception in 2014, NanoAvionics has catalysed over 120 projects across 50 countries, showcasing its unwavering commitment to innovation.

In a recent strategic move, Kongsberg’s acquisition of NanoAvionics has elevated the company’s global influence. With a substantial footprint in missions and commercial satellite projects globally, NanoAvionics has become an integral part of the space exploration ecosystem. Emphasising standardised small satellite platforms, the company plays a pivotal role in advancing space-based connectivity and remote sensing.

Astroscale: Navigating the Cosmos with Purpose

Astroscale, a Japan-based orbital operations company focused on addressing space debris challenges, introduces an innovative approach to satellite refuelling. The Astroscale Prototype Servicer for Refuelling (APS-R), roughly the size of a gas pump, ascends to geosynchronous orbit (GEO) to refuel client satellites, ensuring their ongoing functionality.

Emphasising its commitment to space sustainability, Astroscale’s COSMIC (Clearing Outer Space Mission through Innovative Capture) initiative, particularly the milestone achieved by Astroscale UK, underscores the crucial need to manage space debris for sustained space activities. The COSMIC mission aims to establish practical methods for tracking and reducing space debris, mitigating potential risks associated with the Kessler Syndrome.

In a pioneering move, Astroscale’s Active Debris Removal by Astroscale-Japan (ADRAS-J) mission aims to be the world’s first to safely approach and inspect a non-controlled, non-trackable piece of space debris. As part of the Commercial Removal of Debris Demonstration project (CRD2), this mission underscores Astroscale’s dedication to orbit maintenance, extending spacecraft lifetimes, and fostering a safer space environment.


In an industry where giants like SpaceX and Blue Origin take centre stage, acknowledging the substantial contributions of companies like NanoAvionics and Astroscale is paramount. These innovative players weave crucial threads into the intricate fabric of space exploration. As the space industry undergoes dynamic transformations, keeping an eye on these unsung heroes becomes a fundamental lens through which we comprehend the diverse and impactful developments transpiring beyond the glaring spotlight.

Get innovation insights from The FutureList weekly. Subscribe to our newsletter here