Geospatial intelligence firm Kleos Space (ASX: KSS) has signed a contract with US private aerospace company Spaceflight Industries Inc to launch a cluster of micro-satellites onto Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 re-usable rocket system scheduled for launch next year.
The cluster – known as the “Polar Vigilance Mission” – will comprise four satellites, launched into a 500 kilometre sun-synchronous orbit.
It will aim to enhance the radio frequency geolocation data delivered by Kleos’ “scouting mission” satellites by covering areas north and south of the scouting mission’s 37o inclined orbit in addition to increasing overall coverage time in the equatorial region.
Kleos aims to own, launch and operate up to 20 clusters of satellites creating a constellation which provides critical coverage for monitoring global events and key locations of interest.
The SpaceX launch follows Kleos’ first cluster of micro-satellites integrated into the Indian Space Research Organisation’s polar satellite launch vehicle C49 (PSLV-C49) as part of the “Kleos Scouting Mission”.
Kleos shipped the satellites in February to the Indian satellite integration and rocket launch site at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh in preparation for launch activities.
Kleos chief executive officer Andy Bowyer said the SpaceX agreement fits well with the Kleos business strategy.
“Our vision is to deliver a trustworthy, cost-effective, reconnaissance data product with revisit rates which will help disrupt illegal activities, protect borders and save lives,” he said.
“The launch of the Polar Vigilance Mission means we take another step on that journey, collecting more data over new areas, and opening additional markets while providing a higher-value product for our existing customer base.”
Elon Musk’s SpaceX venture
Space Exploration Technologies Corp (trading as SpaceX) was founded by Elon Musk in 2002 with the goal of reducing space transportation costs to enable human colonisation of Mars.
The company developed the $86 million Falcon 9 reusable two-stage rocket and launch system to significantly reduce the cost of space flight – where its competitors are forced to build new rockets for every launch, SpaceX engages in recycling, achieving an economy of business which has alluded other aerospace manufacturers.
“Reusability allows [us] to refly the most expensive parts of the rocket, which in turn drives down the cost of space access,” the company said.
Since its establishment, SpaceX has developed and flown the Falcon 1 light-lift launch vehicle, the Falcon 9 medium-lift launch vehicle, the Falcon Heavy heavy-lift launch vehicle – believed to be the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two – and Dragon, which is the first commercially-produced spacecraft to visit the International Space Station.