Tuesday, 30 October 2018 23:45

Rocket Lab, Fleet Space team up for satellites launch

Fleet Space Technologies' Proxima satellite Fleet Space Technologies' Proxima satellite

US orbital launch provider Rocket Lab has signed a contract with Australia’s Fleet Space Technologies to launch two satellites from its New Zealand launch site that will form the foundation of a global IoT communications constellation.

The two ‘Proxima’ satellites are the first of a fleet of small, low-cost satellites that will provide Internet connectivity for millions of sensor devices based in remote locations on earth.

The satellites have been added to the manifest for Rocket Lab’s upcoming mission — It’s Business Time — scheduled for launch in November from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex-1 on New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula.

Rocket Lab and the South Australian-based Fleet Space say the payloads were manifested quickly, with just weeks passing between signing the agreement and the satellites completing integration for launch next month.

The two companies say the rapid manifesting process is crucial to small satellite customers, offering flexible and frequent launch opportunities.  

The Fleet satellites will be launched inside Rocket Lab’s in-house designed and built Maxwell dispenser.

They join the current It’s Business Time payloads of two Spire Global Lemur-2 satellites, the Irvine CubeSat STEM Program (ICSP) IRVINE01 educational CubeSat, NABEO, a drag sail technology demonstrator designed and built by High Performance Space Structure Systems GmBH and a GeoOptics Inc. satellite, built by Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems.

The Proxima I and II satellites are a pair of identical 1.5 U CubeSats designed and built by Fleet. The satellites will mark the first commercial tests of Fleet’s software-defined radios, enabling it to transmit data efficiently across both S-band and L-band frequencies in space. The satellites will ultimately help form the beginning of a constellation of more than 100 nanosatellites that, together, will act as a dedicated Internet of Things (IoT) space network for enterprises across the world.

Rocket Lab chief executive Peter Beck said Fleet Space Technologies was one of the key leaders in Australia’s emerging commercial space industry. “We’re thrilled to add Fleet’s Proxima satellites to the It’s Business Time manifest. Fleet’s planned constellation of more than 100 satellites will enable greater connectivity across the globe and provide better access to data about our planet.”

“We’re proud to offer a rapid and agile approach to launching small satellites – one that sees customers like Fleet join a manifest and be in the Electron vehicle ready for launch in just weeks, not months or years. This approach supports commercial companies and governments alike to rapidly deploy space-based assets and get them operational sooner.”

Fleet Space Technologies chief executive Flavia Tata Nardini, who founded Fleet to enable a more efficient world through connectivity, said the rapid manifesting and integration time is a key attraction to Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle.

“We decided to build and launch two more satellites over the past few months and Rocket Lab has moved at the speed of light to incorporate them in this mission, assist us with licensing and complete integration in record time. We will be in space less than few months after making the decision to join the mission. This rapid turnaround time is what the space industry really needs now.

“To see our first commercial CubeSats launched is an incredibly important milestone for us as a business, and it sets us on the path to achieving our goal of connecting Australia, and the world, in ways like never before.”

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has licensed Fleet to perform satellite telemetry, tracking, and command, and payload data reception across S-band and L-band frequencies – and the launches of Proxima I and II also allows Fleet to test longwave and shortwave band frequencies.

The pathfinding payloads on Proxima I and II are scheduled to launch in advance of Fleet’s larger Centauri satellites, which are set to be launched aboard other launch vehicles in late 2018.

When combined with Fleet's ground terminal, the Portal, Fleet’s constellation will enable satellite connectivity in remote industries where cellular networks are not present.

Fleet says The Portal enables businesses to connect up to a thousand devices to private, secure Low Power Wide Area Networks anywhere around the world, at a fraction of the cost of traditional satellite systems.

“Unlike other IoT gateways, the Portal goes beyond simple data collection and uses embedded edge computing-based software to analyse and select key, targeted data for secure transmission over an array of satellite service options, including Fleet’s own satellites,” Fleet says.

“This revolutionary approach means the use of IoT in remote industries is now achievable, enabling data-driven decisions that improve productivity and efficiency across a range of industries, including mining, logistics and agriculture.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired in 2020. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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