Nano-satellite developer Sky and Space Global (ASX: SAS) is making gradual progress in assembling its maiden nano-satellite network, expected to serve as the world’s first autonomous network providing comprehensive narrowband connectivity services.
The past year has seen hastened activity at the company with significant resources deployed towards creating a fully-functional commercial network of nano-satellites.
One of its early milestones was the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Beijing Commsat Technology Development Co., to test and explore how the SAS network can be incorporated into its Commsat IoT offering.
Signed in June this year, the MoU is a preliminary agreement and, while binding, is a precursor to the parties negotiating a more definitive agreement.
Sky and Space has made significant advances in both product development and striking cornerstone collaborative deals, including an agreement with China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC), a wholly-owned subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, to explore the provision of launch services.
Its flagship 3 Diamonds constellation was officially launched on 23 June 2017 and with more than a year in operation, Sky and Space says its growing network is “operating successfully without any major issues.”
The project has undergone 8 months of testing, calibration, upgrading and optimisation, and was deemed “fully operational” earlier this year. The company says it is now using the 3 Diamonds to test new software versions and as a testbed for new capabilities, such as spectrum mapping and monitoring.
Hardware and software
As part of its broader plans, Sky and Space reported that it has dedicated significant resources to prepare its nano-satellite for commercial deployment including a carrying out both hardware and software projects and installing key infrastructure to support future operations.
The company says it has made significant progress in developing its proprietary software, utilising “unique network management” and data compression to allow Sky and Space to be the first in the world to operate an autonomous nano-satellite constellation.
The construction contract for the Pearls constellation was signed with partner company GomSpace in March 2017 and early indications suggest Sky and Space is on track to launch the first batch of Pearl nano-satellites in 2019.
According to Sky and Space, GomSpace has transformed its facilities to accommodate SAS’ specific requirements, including building, testing and production facilities and expanding its existing capabilities to become the front-runner in establishing a nano-satellite business serving telecommunications providers.
The final design phase is now “nearing completion” with the construction of the first Pearls set to commence later this year.
As part of is multi-faceted development schedule, Sky and Space has declared that its work on constructing a series of dedicated canisters is on schedule with prototype testing completed and serial production commenced. Nano-satellite canisters must be installed into a dedicated supporting structure to ensure proper deployment in orbit.
Furthermore, the company must integrate a propulsion system currently being developed by GomSpace. Assembly of the propulsion system prototype is complete and is now undergoing final testing at the GomSpace facility in Sweden.
The ultimate goal is to launch a 200-strong constellation by the end of 2020.
End-user product development
Aside from hardware, Sky and Space is also developing a “portable, low-cost and high-performance end user device” that will serve as an end-user point-of-contact, allowing users to access the company’s satellite network.
Sky and Space says the feature will act as a satellite terminal and a “hotspot”, provided to its clients via a proprietary “Chatellite app” that allows access to the company’s network.
Chatellite is expected to allow end users to make voice calls and use instant messaging services as a first step towards further functionality being developed over time.
The tender process for the development of SAS’ end-user device is nearing completion and the company expects its delivery will meet both the Pearls’ launch schedule and the requirements of SAS’ customers, according to Sky and Space.
In a further development and a sign that its software development efforts are making great strides, Sky and Space says it is conducting initial test runs of the system simulator developed by simulation manufacturer SciSys.
The company’s unique “system of systems” simulator is the first of its kind, using real flight software and complex scenarios that allow SAS to perform system testing, sensitivity analysis and system optimisation with 1 million simulated users.
In a bid to validate its business model and prove the legitimacy of its trailblazing technology, Sky and Space performed two successful demonstrations in South America and the Caribbean over the past year and plans to conduct additional demonstrations “focusing on additional capabilities of interest.”