Lacuna Space signed a contract with NanoAvionics to conduct an in-orbit demonstration of an Internet of Things (IoT) network. Testing is set to begin this year using NanoAvionics M6P satellite platform and integration services. Operations are expected to pave the way for Lacuna to deploy a 32 IoT satellite constellation.
Lacuna’s IoT system is based on Semtech’s LoRa devices and the LoRaWAN protocol in partnership with Parametric GmbH. Under terms of the agreement, NanoAvionics will provide radio frequency allocation, satellite registration, launch integration and other services. The company will also integrate Lacuna Space’s communications payload into the M6P satellite platform.
Low-power sensors and devices will transmit short bursts of data to passing Lacuna Network satellites. The two companies are planning a launch in the third quarter of 2018, with the M6P placed to a 500 kilometer polar orbit and allowing potential customers to work with the beta service.
Based in the United Kingdom, Lacuna expects to start deployment of a full 32 satellite constellation starting in 2019. The constellation will be able to extend the reach of a LoRaWAN network by providing satellite connectivity to fill in coverage areas outside of cellular reach, as well as provide continuous global coverage.
Lacuna is one of many companies diving into the IoT space. Nanosatellites provide an affordable way to store and forward data from remote regions to ground stations and established communications infrastructure. Since nanosatellite are cheaper to build and launch than traditional hardware, the cost of entry for startups is much lower and monthly service costs are expected to be less than those charged by established firms such as Iridium and Orbcomm.
Other new satellite IoT firms include Blink Astro, Fleet Space, Helios Wire, Hiber Global, Myriota, and Sky and Space Global. Most of these new entrants are based outside of the United States and working with European partners to build and launch hardware in the fastest and most cost-effective way. The challenge for these firms is to find a balance between adding more satellites and capabilities to their services while bringing in enough revenues to operate and expand their business.
The M6P platform is a larger 6U satellite that incorporates a “green” propulsion system, enabling it to maintain and adjust its orbit, providing an extended satellite orbital lifetime. Most smaller cubesats have an orbital lifetime of 1 to 3 years, so a larger platform with its own propulsion should be able to stay in orbit for 5 or more years.