Kepler to Launch Its Two Satellites Using Soyuz Rocket

Kepler to Launch Its Two Satellites Using Soyuz Rocket

Kepler's prototype satellites operate in low Earth orbits ranging from 500 - 600 kilometers. This could lead to overlap with SpaceX's Starlink broadband constellation and has left Kepler worried about a spike in conjunction alerts as satellites fly past each other, as well as a risk of increased signal interference.

FREMONT, CA: Kepler Communications has secured two launch spots for its first fully commercial satellites. The company will launch its two six-unit Cubesats on a Russian Soyuz rocket, operated by GK Launch, in mid-2020. The launch was arranged through Innovative Space Logistics, the Dutch launch broker that had arranged for the launch of Kepler's first two prototypes in 2018 on a Chinese Long March 11 and Indian PSLV. The Toronto-based startup plans to deploy a 140-satellite constellation starting with at least 15 commercial spacecraft by the end of 2020.

The company is also looking at other possible options after SpaceX started launching its first satellite toward a 550-kilometer orbit. Kepler's prototype satellites operate in low Earth orbits ranging from 500 - 600 kilometers. This could lead to overlap with SpaceX's Starlink broadband constellation and has left Kepler worried about a spike in conjunction alerts as satellites fly past each other, as well as a risk of increased signal interference. To overcome these challenges, Kepler plans to launch its satellite at 575 kilometers.

“From an architectural standpoint, we are really looking at how can we adapt to prevent the dramatic increase of possible conjunctions that we might see,” said Jared Bottoms, Kepler’s head of launch and satellite programs. “That’s been our number one focus.” The company aims to complete two more launches in the next year apart from the Soyuz mission and seeks to have all 140 satellites in orbit in 2023. "Kepler has procured spacecraft platforms for the two satellites it will launch with GK Launch Services. The satellites have a matured design with upgraded components, including a more powerful software-defined radio," Bottoms added.

Amongst other upgrades, Kepler is also working on building its Internet of Things constellation. The company aims to incorporate propulsion next year and is weighing electronically steered antennas for narrowband services. With the addition of an electronically steered antenna onboard, Kepler can guide beams electronically instead of reorienting spacecraft.

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