SMILE: small launcher for small satellites

Small satellites are a fast-growing market. With hundreds, if not thousands of nanosatellites and microsatellites on the drawing board, one very important thing is missing: a cost-effective way to launch them at the right time into the right orbit.


Small satellites often ‘hitch a ride’ on a large rocket that is dedicated to a primary customer. This can cause conflicts with respect to the timeline and the target orbit. Now that smaller satellites become technologically more advanced and mature, the need is growing for dedicated but ‘affordable’ launches for small satellite operators.


Fourteen European companies and institutes took up the challenge and joined forces in the European Union (EU) Horizon 2020 project called SMall Innovative Launcher for Europe (SMILE) . The project aims at designing a launcher for satellites up to 70 kg from a European-based launch facility at Andøya, Norway, as well as demonstrating critical technologies on propulsion, avionics, and manufacturing of cost-effective solutions.


NLR maintains the ambition to support and accelerate the development of European independent access to space for small satellites, with focus on excellence in: affordable lightweight structures, cost effective avionics, and goal oriented (sub)systems engineering.


Q&A with Michel Keuning, Head of ISR & Space Utilization, NLR

The bright future of small satellites

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