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EXA STARTS SHIPPING COLOSSUS, THE FIRST PCDU BORN IN LATINAMERICA


Figure 1: The COLOSSUS development team

On Monday, December 8, 2023, the first unit of COLOSSUS PCDU was sent from Guayaquil, Ecuador to a US customer in California. EXA made history again, shipping the first PCDU totally designed, built and tested in Latin America, born in Ecuador.


A PCDU is like the heart of a satellite, a big satellite, not a cubesat or nanosatellite, we are talking here about the big birds of 150Kg and up, but back to what a PCDU is, as its acronym says “Power Conditioning and Delivery/Distribution Unit” is the power core that keeps the lights on in the satellite: It takes the power generated by the solar panels, or arrays and conditions it, meaning it transforms it into the multiple needs of the multiple devices in the spacecraft that need different types of power like, for example, 50 volts at 5 amperes, 12 volts at 3 amperes, 28 volts at 3 amperes, and so on, keeping those different power streams steady and stable, so the satellite can work. There is no satellite without a PCDU.


So what is new here?, two things: first, that such a device is very, very complicated, imagine a UPS in steroids and with its own computer and operating system inside, and second, that said device had never been ever designed and built in Latin America.


But there is a ‘third’ point here: COLOSSUS is actually the most advanced PCDU of its kind; not only there is the fact that it is integrated, meaning that up until now, all the units of that kind sells without batteries, but also that COLOSSUS has the highest power to volume and weight ratio for its class. This means that it is compact, powerful, it has everything a big satellite needs on itself, while previous units from other vendors are sold in parts, like one product for the PCDU, another product for the batteries, another for the solar arrays manager, etc.


Figure 2: COLOSSUS L2A EDU unit

This is where COLOSSUS excels, by merging everything the customer expects in one monolithic and compact unit: The device weighs only 7.6 Kg and yet is capable of delivering 1.6 Kilowatts of power (more or less like what a small house consumes in a day) it means that for a 150 Kg satellite it accounts for the 5% of its mass and yet powers the entire spacecraft. That is efficiency.


EXA plans a family of COLOSSUS models, scalable up to 16 Kilowatts (like you could power your entire flat for 16 days, non-stop) with the same efficiency in mass and power as the first COLOSSUS L2A shipped in December 2023, the design is all by the EXA, but the on-board computer that controls the device, runs the operating system and faithfully obeys the commands of the

satellite’s main computer was designed by another

Ecuadorian company: QAS or Quantum Aerospace and also fabricated in the country, along with the flight software (operating system) also written by QAS

engineers.


Figure 3: COLOSSUS L2A EDU unit being charged

COLOSSUS design started back in 2018 with a team lead by EXA’s Chief Designer, Academician Ronnie Nader , later in 2022 after the proper validation of all models prototyping and testing started and a contract was awarded by a US company building its own fleet of 15 satellites of 150Kg each. The unit first shipped was an EDU or Engineering Development Unit, later in 2024 the first Flight Unit will be shipped and then 15 units more.


EXA knows what is doing here, the main competitors are huge companies like Airbus, Thales, Boeing, and many other medium companies in the US and Europe, EXA is small, but that also means it is fast: While their competitors offer bulky, expensive units that can take a year or more to be delivered, EXA can deliver lean, compact and more powerful COLOSSUS units in merely 3 months.

How do they do that? “We keep costs down, never sacrificing quality; we are not dozens or hundreds of people, our designs are all modular, we use a lot of robotic manufacturing and invest in top quality tools and equipment and we work in silence and secrecy, we are loyal to our customers and work closely with them and we work a lot, we are not 9-to-5 workers” says Ronnie Nader, EXA’s Chief Designer.



Figure 4: COLOSSUS L2A Flight unit

The hardware and software of the MCU of the COLOSSUS family are a very efficient piece of engineering, “All its technical features have been designed to control in an efficient and scalable way the enormous amount of power that COLOSSUS can provide and manage during a space mission” says Jaime Jaramillo, QAS CEO

“It is a little scary, so much power in so small package...” said Guisella Moncayo, Marketing Director at EXA.

More information in the product page at www.smallsat.market/colossus


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