5 mins read 10 Dec 2021

Fully 3D Printed Satellite Constellation to be launched by Fleet Space

South Australian company, Fleet Space Technologies has announced plans to launch a constellation of it’s Alpha Satellites. These satellites are expected to become the world's first completely 3D printed satellites and will provide increased capability over the company's current Centauri satellites. 

The Alpha CubeSat that Fleet will use to 3D printing to manufacture. Credit: Fleet Space Technologies.

Fleet Space Technologies have announced the new fully 3D printed Alpha satellite along with \$26.4 million (USD) of further investment as part of the series B funding round. The Alpha CubeSat is part of the new strategy which will leverage the experience and knowledge gained from the successful operation of the company’s growing constellation of Centauri satellites.  

“It is Fleet Space’s vision that everyone, everywhere, has access to unlimited connectivity, no matter where they are on the globe; in cities, remote regions, on land or navigating the oceans. Our recent Series B investment empowered us to realise this vision by embarking on a bold new strategy,” said Fleet Space Technologies CEO and Founder, Flavia Tata Nardini.

The new Alpha satellite constellation will work in harmony with the existing constellation and will be used to expand its coverage reach and provide down to sub-second latency, providing an extremely cost-effective means to unlock unprecedented connectivity more quickly and in more locations, however remote.

According to Fleet, the additional scope will arrive at a key moment in the satellite communications industry with the market expected to double over the next seven years driven by cheaper access to orbit and a combination of new technologies. 

It is expected that by 2025 there will be anywhere from 14 billion to upwards of 30 billion Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices, with the associated demand for high speed, low latency connectivity, increasing respectively. 

Continued Growth Opportunities

Fleet are looking to take on another 70 people to support the growth of the company. Credit: Fleet Space Technologies.

Earlier this year Fleet launched their fifth and sixth Centauri 4 satellites. The sixth satellite was carrying its most advanced payload yet, the latest digital beamforming technology. The Centauri is a 6U CubeSat and the company had already announced plans to launch six more with Queensland-based launch provider Gilmour Space

It is not just the CubeSat that the company is announcing as the level of investment they have received in this Series B funding will allow them to expand the scope of its dedicated research and development arm which will create the system.  

The company is also hoping to grow by around 70 people, with the fresh funding valuing the company at around \$126 Million (USD). The funding was led by a number of high profile organisations including Blackbird Ventures, who have also supported Gilmour Space this year, Hostplus and South Australian Venture Capital Fund amongst others. 

“This new chapter in our story is led by the development of a new constellation of satellites named Alpha, which will work in harmony with our existing Centauri constellation,” added Nardini

Fleet will also be one of the founding companies of the newly announced South Australian Space Park, which will become a dedicated space manufacturing hub, along with Q-CTRL, ATSpace, and Alauda Aeronautics. They will be developing their manufacturing capabilities in the new Hyper Factory at the site enabling them to collaborate in a number of areas including the development of CubeSats and their payloads. 

In 2019 the company supported the South Australian government as part of the cooling Adelaide initiative. More than 200 soil moisture and air temperature sensors were installed in 17 council areas, aiming to track the changes from one area to the next. Fleet then deployed a hybrid private satellite/public IoT network to receive and transmit data. The information, published on the SA water website allowed members of the public to work out where the coolest places to visit were. This is just one of the many uses of Fleet's IoT technology to improve how we live. 

The latest CubeSat Development

Founders Matthew Pearson (Left) and Flavia Tata Nardini with the Alpha CubeSat. Credit: Fleet Space Technologies.

“Alpha represents a major step forward and the first time a satellite has been created entirely through 3D-printing,” said Nardini of the innovative CubeSat. 

Fleet believes that this development will enable them to accelerate the radical efficiencies unlocked by the Internet of Things (IoT). The company has a clear track record in advanced manufacturing methods such as 3D printing. This includes a world-first in metal 3D-printing patch antennas for small satellites which they believe proves the company’s approach and the robustness of the technology for much wider use. Alpha satellites will have up to 64 of these antennas onboard versus only 4 in the Centauri 4. This represents a 16-fold increase in performance while being only four times heavier. 

Fleet is planning for the Alpha to be ready for launch in around 12 months and will supplement the existing Centauri constellation with the total size expected to grow to a total of 140 satellites over the coming years. The Centauri satellite was developed in collaboration with Californian company, Tyvak International and both companies are looking to continue their collaborative approach. 

“Our continuing collaboration with Fleet Space represents a landmark technical partnership in the development of connectivity IoT. We are proud to globally empower this rapidly growing company through the co-development and continuing improvement of the established Fleet’s Constellation,” said Marco Villa from Tyvak International, a Terran Orbital Corporation. 

Fleet are expecting high speed global continuous coverage to be available by 2026, hoping to unlock new markets with a high data rate of up to 520 kbps and tailored frequency bands servicing current and future generations of IoT devices.

“By bringing together the creation, deployment and service of space technology this is a clear statement of our intent to become a global leader in space technology and to support Australia’s ambition to lead this critical field. It also allows us to drive down costs and truly democratise this technology, connecting more people, places and things to unlock the radical efficiencies we know that global connectivity enables,” concluded Nardini.