Kepler Communications plans to assess a terminal which it does hopes to dispatch in thousands in the coming years to build a data-relay spacecraft mesh network using a Spire Global nanosatellite set to deploy late next year. Kepler, which is a six-year-old Toronto startup, currently has 15 cubesats in orbit, providing low-data-rate connectivity to electronics on Earth that aren’t reachable by terrestrial networks.

With its Aether data-relay spaceship, which Kepler is also developing, the company intends to “bring Internet to space” for the thousands of satellites expected to launch into low Earth orbit (LEO) during the next decade. According to the corporation, Kepler’s Aether network will enable the real-time link for satellites that can currently only transfer data while passing via permitted base stations.

Satellites outfitted with the Aether terminal, as per Kepler officials, would not need a direct connection to the ground station to convey data back to Earth. Businesses like space tourism and Earth sensing are expected to make heavy use of the network. As per a current regulatory filing by Kepler, about 115,000 satellites is going to link to the Aether network.

As per Mina Mitry, who is the startup’s Chief Executive Officer, in a blog post on November 18, these satellites are largely non-Kepler satellites with the Aether terminals onboard. Mitry explained that since the hardware, service, as well as license is going to all be provided by Kepler, filing for regulatory approval on behalf of potential customers simplifies the licensing process for users, reducing the administrative burden for both them and regulators.

According to SpaceNews, the company still plans to manage only 140 satellites overall. Additional Kepler spacecraft will be fitted with new capabilities notably Aether, which will soon replace prior versions. As per Steve Bennett, the chief operating officer of the company, Kepler plans to deploy four satellites as a portion of SpaceX’s Transporter 3 Falcon 9 ride-share flight in January.

Bennett told SpaceNews via email, “One of the values of implementing production in-house is that we can increment on the satellites that we send into orbit.” “With the imminent deployment, two of our satellites are going to carry [Aether] user gear to showcase the concept and establish the flight heritage,” the business adds.

Kepler received $60 million in June for its constellation projects, with the goal of nearly tripling its crew to 150 by 2021. Bennett indicated that the company intends to hire “over 100 personnel” in 2022 and will “continue fiercely in 2022.”

Tests on the network

Initial terminal testing on a satellite Spire wants to deploy in the 4th quarter of the year 2022 will be confined to verifying hardware functionality and data rates before Aether satellites capable of transmitting data are placed in orbit.

“To have the entire [Aether] solution, we’ll require to get our network implemented,” a Kepler representative stated. “This is anticipated to begin in Q1 2023.” The terminal tests, however, will allow Spire Global to assess how Aether data-relay network would support Spire’s LEO constellation of over 110 Lemur smallsats, according to Kepler.

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