Adelaide-based Internet of Things company Fleet Space Technologies will launch the first Australian commercial satellite into space from New Zealand in November in a result that was organised in just one month.
It comes as the Australian Space Agency took its first step in its aim to triple the size of the local space industry by 2030, with its inaugural charter being signed off on by the federal government.
Fleet had earlier this year secured two contracts to launch two of its nanosatellites into space from California and India.
But following delays and a new partnership with Rocket Lab moved at the “speed of light”, and the launch in November will mark the first Australia commercial CubeSats to be sent into orbit.
“We suffered some delays of a few months. When we were integrating them into the launchers and there was the feeling that here was still some delays, we thought it was time to keep moving,” Fleet chief executive Flavia Tata Nardini told InnovationAus.com.
“Rocket Lab had some space in the launch for November – this was in the middle of September. In a month we managed to design the satellites, build them, create all the payloads and do the testing,” she said.
“Everything happened in a month. I would have never thought we could do something like that. It’s great. For a startup that young to manage that is something that’s pretty great.”
Proxima I and II – nanosatellites the size of a brick – will launched from Rocket Lab’s complex on New Zealand’s Mahi Peninsula next month. They will form the beginning of the “constellation of more than 100 nanosatellites that together will act as a dedicated IoT space network for enterprises across the globe.”
The two CubeSats will be included on the manifest for Rocket Lab’s upcoming mission, named “It’s Business Time”. They will be used to test Fleet’s software-defined radios.
If all the upcoming launches go ahead and are successful, Fleet will have launched four CubeSats into space by the end of the year.
“It’s going to be a big month for us, and for Australia. Launching four satellites, for a startup in one year, is quite an achievement. It’s amazing, this month is the kind of thing we will remember forever,” Ms Tata Nardini said.
The new Australian Space Agency, which officially launched in July, also helped to ensure the process was quick and smooth, Ms Tata Nardini said.
“Between the space agency here and the New Zealand space agency, they made it happen in a few weeks. That tells a lot about the speed the space agency is making things happen. We’re really glad with their support, they’ve been fantastic,” she said.
Fleet currently offers a range of IoT-based sensors that are connected to satellites that they don’t own.
They aim to eventually have its own constellation of satellites in space connected to these devices, delivering efficiencies for a range of industries, including agriculture, mining and logistics.
A key role of the new Australian Space Agency will be to assist these launches, and help local companies obtain the necessary licenses, and to potentially conduct the launches from within Australia.
The Agency, which officially opened its doors in July, has now released its charter, which has been agreed to by the federal government.
The charter provides a “high-level, strategic overview of the agency’s purpose, responsibilities and governance structure”.
“The agency’s purpose is to transform and grow a globally respected Australian space industry that lifts the broader economy, inspires and improves the lives of Australians – underpinned by strong international and national engagement,” the charter said.
“The agency is the front door for Australia’s international engagement on civil space and operates as the national priority setting mechanism for the civil space sector.
“The agency ensures that Australia’s civil space activities contribute to productivity and employment across the Australian economy, secure new knowledge and capability, and inspire all Australians.”
The agency is now responsible for the whole-of-government coordination of civil space matters, and the “primary source of advice” to the government on civil space policy.
It will soon establish a 10-person advisory board to provide advice to space agency head Megan Clark.
An Australian Government Space Coordination Committee will also be launched to “coordinate civil space activities with other government departments and agencies” and “coordinate and discuss whole of government policy settings on civil space activities”. The committee will meet once a quarter.
The agency will run a Space Industry Leaders Forum to act as the “primary mechanism for engagement and coordination with the space industry”, with members invited by Dr Clark from industry, academia, industry associations and other non-government space organisations.
In addition, a State and Territory Space Coordination Meeting will be held regularly to coordinate with state and territory governments and “provide one voice for Australia’s civil space sector”.
The agency is also expected to reveal where it will be permanently based by the end of the year, with nearly every state and territory lobbying to host the headquarters.