Kepler validates intersatellite data-relay terminal

TAMPA, Fla. — Kepler Communications has efficiently examined inter-satellite hyperlinks with a terminal designed to faucet into the Aether data-relay constellation it plans to start out deploying early subsequent yr, an government for the Canadian firm mentioned.

Two of the 4 satellites SpaceX launched Jan. 13 to assist Kepler’s present enterprise, which gives low-data-rate companies with a complete 19 satellites to units out of vary of terrestrial networks, are geared up with the S-band terminal for the upcoming system.

Kepler “efficiently transferred the primary [data] packet from one satellite tv for pc to the opposite” 4 days after launch, CEO Mina Mitry mentioned in an interview.

“Each week we take a look at with our satellites at various distances, performing communications and validating the hyperlink as distance adjustments,” Mitry mentioned.

Though the “{hardware} is validated and is constructing flight heritage,” he mentioned Kepler plans to proceed making refinements forward of deploying devoted data-relay spacecraft subsequent yr.

“Constructing a relay community is extremely energy consuming,” he mentioned, so these satellites will likely be “an order of magnitude greater” than the 19 cubesats in its present community, which Kepler expects to proceed operaitng alongside the relay satellites.

“The issue for purchasers is it’s actually energy costly in the event that they wished to do their very own in house communications community,” he mentioned, whereas “it’s very energy environment friendly in the event that they speak to our satellites as a result of our antennas are greater so their antennas might be smaller.”

These bigger Aether satellites intention to offer real-time connectivity for low Earth orbit (LEO) spacecraft that presently solely relay data when passing over authorized floor stations.

A LEO satellite tv for pc can talk with floor methods “30% of the time at greatest, leaving 70% unaccounted for,” he mentioned.

“This discrepancy slows down the commissioning course of and bottlenecks the flexibility to downlink time-sensitive knowledge.”

Russia’s conflict in Ukraine has helped underline the significance of real-time connectivity within the Earth commentary marketplace for authorities and protection purposes, in response to Mitry, and is “driving a number of curiosity in uptake.”

Kepler can be one of many corporations hoping to offer a business different to the Monitoring and Knowledge Relay Satellites (TDRS) that NASA is retiring.

Subsequent steps

Kepler has secured spectrum rights by way of the German authorities that might enable almost 115,000 satellites to make use of its terminals for accessing the Aether data-relay community.

Nonetheless, “out of an abundance of care,” Mitry mentioned Kepler is voluntarily reaching out to satellite tv for pc operators to make sure it doesn’t intervene with the S-band frequencies they use for telemetry, monitoring and management.

There isn’t any formalized physique that facilitates these sorts of conversations, Mitry famous.

“It’s a actually previous course of the place you go in and also you knock on somebody’s door” to test for interference, he mentioned, including that to date the suggestions has been optimistic. 

Mitry additionally mentioned the $60 million Kepler raised in June covers funding for all of the satellites it goals to deploy all through 2023. 

He mentioned Kepler has plans for 140 satellites in complete however declined to debate what number of are anticipated to be deployed subsequent yr, or if launch agreements have been secured.

The Canadian firm has “constructed a large stock” of satellite tv for pc components to protect in opposition to provide chain points that might disrupt its enlargement plans, he added. 

“We’ve secured all of our provide for this yr and early subsequent yr,” he mentioned, and is preserving “a detailed eye” on the potential for uncooked materials and staffing shortages. 

The corporate can be planning to check its terminal on a 3rd social gathering nanosatellite operated by Spire World that’s slated to launch in late 2022.

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