KIPP, Kepler's first satellite (Source: Kepler Communications)

Kepler contracts to build third pathfinder IoT satellite

Toronto-based Kepler Communications has signed a contract with AAC Clyde to build its third Internet of Things (IoT) satellite.  TARS will be a 6U Cubesat and is being built as a part of the UK’s Satellite Applications Catapult demonstration program.

Kepler made the contract announcement via website blog post last week.  In July, Kepler was awarded the fifth In-Orbit Demonstration Mission (IOD 5) by Satellite Applications Catapult. The TARS satellite will demonstrate the capacity and performance for delivering narrowband services globally will adding to the high-capacity store-and-forward capabilities being provided by Kepler’s first two satellites, KIPP and CASE. The two initial satellites are 3U Cubesats, with KIPP in orbit and CASE scheduled for launch later this year.

It should be no surprise Clyde was selected, since it was involved with the building of KIPP and CASE. Being selected by Satellite Applications Catapult, an organization designed to foster and grow the UK space industry, also meant that TARS would end up being built with UK business participation.

TARS will specifically demonstrate cross-border IoT connectivity similar to current mobile connections in terms of high data volumes and bi-direction links at low cost, and will be the final test satellite before Kepler ramps up to build 10 GEN1 satellites set for “roll out” in early 2020. A total of 140 satellites will comprise the full constellation, with three generations of satellites in the initial build.

Using a combination of Ku-band and software defined radio (SDR), Kepler is capable of moving upward of 5 GB per satellite pass, with a single satellite passing over the poles 15 to 16 times a day.  Packing a Ku-band antenna into a nanosatellite is an engineering win, enabling users and satellite antenna manufacturers to repackage existing Ku-band electronics and antennas to communicate with Kepler’s satellite constellation.

Kepler expects to roll out an alpha version of an integrated satellite ground terminal later this year and beta prototypes to come out in 2019, with an electronically steerable antenna built by Phasor Systems.  Expected list price for the flat-panel gear is expected to be around $5000.

Kepler’s store-and-forward approach to bulk data puts it in a different category than most startup IoT plays in the marketplace.  The company has discussed moving around media files to cruise ships and other remote locations, stored CCTV video, and environmental data, with expected interest in the maritime, agriculture, defense, research, and mining sectors.

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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