Australia’s Sky and Space orders new satellites for global IoT network 

13 May 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Australian nano-satellite company Sky and Space Global is moving ahead with a plan to build a global coverage network.

Until now Sky and Space (SAS) has been planning an equatorial network but the new service will cover places far from the equator, says the company, which aims to focus on the internet of things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) services.

CEO Meir Moalem said the new plan “will allow Sky and Space to deliver a global coverage nanosatellite fleet servicing the IoT and M2M sectors, with strong potential demand for these services already evident”.

This is a significant shift for SAS, which announced last year that a Danish factory had started making the first of 200 satellites for the initial project, which would limit services to a band between 15° north of the equator and 15° south.

That would have put Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia and parts of central America in range. Now SAS has dropped that project and re-thought the project, to expand coverage to Australia, Russia, China, South Africa, Argentina and Canada.

GomSpace, the company making the nano-satellites for SAS in Aalborg, will make a further 16 satellites for the expanded coverage. “The signing of this new agreement with GomSpace is a key step towards the launch of our new global coverage satellites and first revenues,” said Moalem.

The satellites will typically orbit 700-750km above the surface, reducing latency to a few milliseconds.

In April SAS announced a significant change in its launch policy. Earlier it was planning to use Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit start-up, which intends to carry a rocket mounted on a Boeing 747-400. Now, however, SAS says it is negotiating with Arianespace, the long-established French company, to launch the nano-satellites on Vega rockets. It is also talking to Rocket Lab, a Californian company.

SAS is quoted on the Australian Stock Exchange but is expected to establish its operational headquarters in the UK. 

Capacity reports today that Elon Musk plans to launch the first SpaceX nano-satellites on Wednesday, Eventually the company hopes to have more than 7,000 satellites in orbit.