Astrocast, Kepler announce satellite IoT ground hardware

Last week Astrocast and Kepler Communications displayed ground hardware for their respective satellite Internet of Things (IoT) solutions as the pace of the industry started to kick into high gear over the past month. Astrocast provided details on its Astronode S module while Kepler rolled out a developer kit for its forthcoming S-band IoT service.

The Astronode S part is a “solder-down” bi-directional module for users who want a simple serial interface to Astrocast’s satellite network. Operating in L-band, uploaded data from the module will be available through a client dashboard web portal as well as via a REST API. Two antennas are offered, a bare patch antenna at a size of 36 x 36 x 7 mm and an outdoor variant available with a SMA connector. The development kit includes an antenna and a separate Wi-Fi development board to simulate the L-band satellite link, providing a low latency environment.

Details on Astrocast satellite services are also included on the basic description of Astronode S. In 2020, bi-directional messaging for fixed assets will be available once to twice a day, with continually improving network latency continuing to fall between 2020 and 2023 as more satellites are added. When the full Astrocast constellation is in orbit by 2023, the average end-to-end latency between data pick up and delivery is expected to be “approximately” 5 to 7 minutes, with maximum end-to-end latency of 15 minutes. Bi-directional messaging is expected to be available for both fixed and mobile assets at that time. Data uplink message payloads can be up to 160 Bytes, with downlink message sizes either 8 or 40 Bytes, with the ability to send multiple messages per day.

Astrocast has two satellites already in orbit and is conducting pilot programs with its “pre-commercial service.” It also expects to have a full commercial development kit available in 2020.

Kepler Communications announced pre-registration for its first IoT development kits, which will be available for purchase in the first quarter of 2020. Kepler’s IoT trials will be supported by the launch of its third satellite and follow-on satellites launched throughout 2020. Built around a Raspberry Pi, The IoT DevKit supports uplink capabilities of 2 KB per day or 60KB per month, with bi-direction communication for message acknowledgement and configuration updates. The kit includes a 5V 2.5A power adapter, a USB to RS232 adapter, a USB cable, and two UFL cables, plus 6 months of satellite airtime included. Dimensions of the IoT module are 7 cm x 10 cm x 4 cm. Pricing for the kit is not listed on the website at this time.

Being able to connect things is just as important as launching satellites. Expect to hear more about costs and hardware from other satellite IoT companies in the weeks and months to come.

Doug Mohney

Doug Mohney, a principal at Cidera Analytics, has been working and writing about IT and satellite industries for over 20 years. His real world experience including stints at two start-ups, a commercial internet service provider that went public in 1997 for $150 million and a satellite internet broadband company. Follow him on Twitter at DougonTech or contact him at dmohney139 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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