Fleet launches fifth nanosatellite

| March 25, 2021

Adelaide-based satellite manufacturer Fleet Space Technologies has successfully launched its fifth nanosatellite today, Centauri 3. It was launched from New Zealand’s Launch Complex 1 at Mahia Peninsula aboard a Rocket Lab Electron launch vehicle “They Go Up So Fast”.

The 10kg nanosatellite entered its pre-planned orbit, 550km above the earth, on schedule, and was sending full telemetry data on its third pass. Over the next few days, the satellite will begin commissioning and engage in full operations.

“We’re very excited because Centauri 3 will demonstrate our Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) capabilities by linking multiple remote sensors monitoring critical infrastructure such as remote mine sites, gas pipelines and rurally dispersed electricity pylons with central base stations, 24 hours a day,” says Fleet Space CEO and co-founder Ms Flavia Tata Nardini.

“The Centauri 3 nanosatellite – our fifth commercial nanosatellite and our most advanced payload yet – will be joined by two more this year and a further 16 during 2022 and 2023,” she adds.

These later satellites will have much greater signal throughput and their greater numbers will deliver a continuous service to customers worldwide.

Centauri 3 and the other nanosatellites make possible Fleet Space’s service to energy companies, utilities and mines worldwide. An IoT communications payload aboard each satellite, designed by Fleet Space, will connect thousands of sensors monitoring critical infrastructure across the world with their owners’ and managers’ base stations in real time, 24 hours a day. The full constellation of 140 satellites could generate a lifetime revenue of $1.82 billion, says Ms Tata Nardini.

The payload includes a highly innovative, lightweight beam-steering antenna, Artificial Intelligence-driven computer server and satellite modem, all designed in-house by Fleet Space. This will transform the ability of Australian industry to manage and control in real time remote assets.

Fleet Space believes the service needs a constellation of 140 such satellites, of which about 50 will need replacement every year as their Low Earth Orbits decay.

To meet this demand, it has applied for a $5 Million grant under the Australian government’s Modern Manufacturing Initiative (MMI) to establish an advanced manufacturing capability in Adelaide to produce these satellites.

The grant, matched by capital raised by Fleet Space itself, will make it possible to manufacture the entire satellite payload by itself, says Ms Tata Nardini. This will help increase Fleet Space’s workforce from 31 to 128 scientists, engineers and assembly technicians. Fleet Space’s partners, the University of Adelaide, Hawker Richardson, Lintek, and Redarc Electronics will also increase their testing and manufacturing capabilities thanks to this grant.

“For the first time, we’ll be able to 3D print our innovative beam-steering antenna here in Australia,” she says. “We design the antenna and all of the rest of the payload, but at present, the only space-qualified company that can manufacture the antenna is in Switzerland.”

These manufacturing capabilities will also be available to Defence as well as to other Australian space companies, adding depth and strength to the entire sector, she says.