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SWIFT-SLX radio
The software-defined SWIFT-SLX S-band radio is designed to fit on a CubeSat-class satellite. (Tethers Unlimited Photo)

Tethers Unlimited weathered a wave of bad news over the winter, but now some good news has bloomed. The company, headquartered in Bothell, Wash., reports that its SWIFT-SLX S-band radio has been successfully operated in orbit.

The compact software-defined radio provided two-way communications between Harris Corp.’s first small satellite, known as HSAT-1, and the satellite’s ground operators, Tethers Unlimited said this week in a news release. HSAT was launched last November by India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, with Seattle-based Spaceflight handling logistical support.

SWIFT-SLX is designed to fit on CubeSat-class spacecraft, and can be configured to meet a wide range of mission needs, including in-flight adjustment of operating frequencies for S- and L-band communications. Development of the radio was supported with Small Business Innovation Research grants from the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Army Space and Missile Defense Center.

“Our team has worked very hard to bring the SWIFT radios to the level of maturity and quality necessary to meet the needs of top-tier customers such as Harris Corp.,” Tethers Unlimited CEO Rob Hoyt said. “The great performance of the SWIFT-SLX right out of the gate is a big testament to our SWIFT team’s efforts and the collaborative support of the Harris integration team.”

Hoyt noted that Tethers Unlimited has delivered a number of additional radios for other flight missions. “This success should give those other programs confidence that our SWIFT radios will perform well for their missions,” he said.

Tethers Unlimited works on a variety of space technologies, including programmable radios for small satellites as well as in-space manufacturing and advanced space propulsion modules. Last month, astronauts installed the company’s Refabricator 3-D printer and recycler aboard the International Space Station for testing.

In January, Tethers Unlimited had to lay off 12 engineers — roughly 20 percent of its staff — when a partial federal government shutdown held up reimbursements for contract work that was completed in late 2018. Payments resumed after the shutdown ended, and Hoyt has said the company could start staffing up again if it wins new contracts.

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