Fleet secures launch vehicles

James Riley
Editorial Director

Adelaide-based startup Fleet Space Technologies is set to launch Australia’s first commercial nanosatellites this year as the local sector continues to rapidly grow.

The company has secured two contracts to launch its nanosatellites, Centauri I and II, into space by the end of this year.

Fleet aims to launch a “constellation of nanosatellites to create a scalable, global network to connect sensors around the world”.

Flavia Tata Nardini: Fleet’s first nanosatellites to launch this year

But Fleet co-founder and chief executive Flavia Tata Nardini said the process would be easier and quicker once the Australian space agency is up and running.

Fleet’s first nano-satellite wouldlaunch with SpaceFlight on an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle by Antrix, while the second launch later this year is on a SpaceX Falcon 9 from California.

“Everyone knew we were building the satellites, but now the launch windows have been announced. Fleet closed the investment last year and in that short window of time we managed to build the two satellites and work out the practicalities in booking the two rockets,” Ms Nardini told InnovationAus.com.

The company currently offers a range of IoT sensors, but these are currently connected to satellites not owned by Fleet.

Its products deliver “mass-scale efficiencies” for industries including agriculture, mining and logistics.

“The goal is launch more of them. The more you have the more service you can provide. We’ve actually managed to create a product that can be used with any satellite in the world, and it’s working now with existing infrastructure,” Ms Nardini said.

“But once we have our own satellites that’ll bring the extra efficiency that IoT really needs – that will bring down the costs. We need to keep disrupting ourselves to keep doing better.”

The small nanosatellites, weighing less than 10kg, typically “piggy-back” on larger rocket payloads, but the process to secure these launches and gain all the necessary approvals is a long and complicated one.

“Satellites like these are small but they are complicated – we still have to follow the rules. There’s a lot of interesting bureaucracy and paperwork that needs to be done. There are a couple of regulations that make it difficult to launch,” she said.

Assisting smaller startups navigate these regulations should be a core role of the new Australian space agency, which will officially launch next month, Ms Nardini said.

“When the space agency is here we will have one voice, one entry point to manage those sub-offices. It will make life easier not just for Fleet but for all Australian companies,” she said.

“The space agency can destroy the barriers around this and facilitate all the space stuff to move faster.”.

While Fleet has been forced to look overseas to launch its nanosatellites, it’s hoped that at some point in the future these sort of large-scale rockets will be able to be launched from Australia.

“We’re launching now from abroad but maybe one day we will launch from here. It has been discussed a lot in the space agency journey. We cannot wait for launches, we have to move fast,” Ms Nardini said.

“Australia is a very big country that has opportunities to have launch sites in every direction in every area. It’s a country that’s suited to that, and I’m quite keen for that. We’ve done everything in one year but it could be faster – startups need to move faster,” Ms Nardini said.

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