Last week, Kepler Communications announced it selected SpaceX to put the bulk of its initial Internet of Things (IoT)/bulk data service constellation into orbit. Kepler has purchased 400 kilograms of launch capacity for the launch of “multiple satellites,” according to the company’s press release.
“Kepler looks forward to working with SpaceX to fulfill part of our 2020 launch plans. With this agreement, we are deploying our next-generation constellation on schedule, which will let us serve the growing demand,” said Mina Mitry, CEO of Kepler Communications. “We chose SpaceX as a launch partner and support their SmallSat Rideshare Program which is certainly a one-of-its-kind, exceeding expectations in terms of pricing and accommodation.”
Kepler’s satellites will be spread across two launches expected to take place in 2020 as a part of SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program announced earlier this year. SpaceX is offering rideshare space onboard its series of Starlink communications satellite launches taking place in 2020 from Florida along with dedicated launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base to sun-synchronous orbit (SSO). Kepler is the first announced customer for SpaceX’s rideshare service, taking advantage of SSO launches.
Earlier this year, Kepler announced plans to launch two of its satellites to SSO onboard a Soyuz rideshare taking place in the second or third quarter of 2020. Kepler’s GEN satellite constellation is expected be around 10 to 15 satellites. A company spokesperson for Kepler would not discuss how many satellites per launch or in total the company expected to launch onboard the two SpaceX rideshares, but 400 kilograms is a lot of cubesat mass.
The company currently has two 3U pathfinder satellites in orbit and is slated to launch its third satellite, a larger 6U model, later this year. GEN1 satellites are expected to include a high-speed Ku-band radio for bulk data transfers and a S-band radio for lower-power IoT applications. Ultimately, Kepler plans to launch up to 120 or so satellites for its final GEN3 with satellites incorporating in-orbit communications crosslinks to move data directly between end users in the field and the rest of the world.