On September 30,2020 a Soyuz rideshare put 22 small satellites into orbit with ICEYE, Kepler Communications, Lacuna Space, and Spire adding to their respective fleets. With the aerospace industry adopting to the impact of COVID-19, launch operations are in full swing around the world.
SAR manufacturer ICEYE had two satellites onboard the rideshare mission launched from the Baikonur launch complex in Kazakhstan at 7:20 A.M. EDT, but the bulk of the commercial customers onboard were IoT-associated companies.
Kepler Communication put its first two GEN1 production satellites into orbit. The 6UXL-sized satellites, named Antilles and Amidala, support both high-speed Ku-band data transmission for large-sized files and lower-band data for IoT applications. Kepler has a number of other launch opportunities lined up through 2021 in order to fill out its first-generation constellation.
Lacuna Space added one satellite. LacunaSat 3 is a 6U satellite built by NanoAvionics and will pick up data from modified/tweaked LoRa sensors on the ground. The company also has another NanoAvionics-based satellite being built and scheduled for launch “at a later date.” The company’s previous 6U satellite, launched in April 2019, was hosted/split between Lacuna Space and Blink Astro.
Rounding out the commercial payloads, Spire had four Lemur-2 satellites onboard. The Lemur-2 series support three different services: ADS-B airplane tracking, AIS ship tracking, and GPS radio occultation (GPS-RO) for better weather data. Spire has put 110 satellites into orbit to date and has two more sets expected to be launched in 2020, one set onboard a Falcon 9 rideshare and the other in a November PSLV launch from India.
The launch gives Kepler and Lacuna an important kick start for 2020 as the IoT satellite spaces becomes more competitive. Swarm Technologies launched 12 satellites last month onboard an Arianespace Vega rideshare and just announced its equipment and service pricing.