South Australian commercial satellite company Fleet Space has penned a $6.4 million contract with Australia’s Defence Space Command (DSC), marking the company’s foray into the defence industry.
Co-founded by Adelaide-based entrepreneurs, CEO Flavia Tata Nardini and chief exploration officer Matt Pearson, in 2015, Fleet Space will deploy its next-gen Centauri satellites to create a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) communications system focused on tactical communications and data transmission where connectivity is limited.
The program, named ASCEND2LEO, is being run in collaboration between Fleet Space, the Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG), the University of South Australia, Rice Satcom and SmartSat CRC.
According to Fleet Space, the project will see DSC make use of its commercial space tech already used by the mining industry for mineral exploration projects worldwide.
“We're excited to collaborate with Defence Space Command and our partners to deliver new capabilities from low Earth orbit,” Fleet co-founder Pearson said.
“This is only the beginning and we envision Australian satellites supporting national security across land, air, sea and space by connecting our people, our assets and by enabling radical ideas in autonomy and emerging technologies.
“We’re investing heavily in advanced manufacturing, high tech engineering talent, and have a laser focus on delivering innovative solutions at scale for our customers worldwide.”
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DSC director of space services Colonel Clifford White said he looked forward to working with Fleet Space.
“Australia is fortunate to have a talented space industry with an inventive spirit,” Colonel White said.
“Space is operationally critical to the achievement of the Defence mission, and this is an example of innovative way to advance our capability and support the development of a sustainable national space enterprise.
“We look forward to working with Fleet Space as they bring new approaches to enhance satellite communication capabilities to meet Defence’s needs.”
The CEO of Fleet Space partner SmartSat, Professor Any Koronios, said the ASCEND2LEO project was ambitious, but that the repurposed mining tech was the right fit for the job.
“ASCEND2LEO is an ambitious project and a prime example of how SmartSat can help our partners successfully develop and demonstrate innovative Australian technology to customers such as Defence,” Professor Koronios said.
“It delivers one of the Defence Space Strategy objectives, being that ‘Defence may benefit from repurposing civilian technology for military means, without having to invest in R&D or venture incubation’.
“SmartSat was able to work with Fleet to develop a proposal to do just this – repurpose technology being used for world-leading mineral exploration, and technology SmartSat developed to build more resilient Search and Rescue infrastructure, into a demonstration of tactical voice communications.”
For Fleet Space, the news comes after it was revealed in 2021 that the company would build a ‘hyper factory’ in South Australia’s proposed Australian Space Park.
At the proposed site, Fleet Space will manufacture a constellation of 3D-printed small satellites, and will be co-located with ATSpace, Q-CTRL and Aluda Aeronautics.
In other space industry news, the Arnhem Space Centre (ASC) on the Gove Peninsula in the Northern Territory has been selected for a dedicated launch site by US-based Phantom Space Corporation.
ASC is Phantom’s first launch site outside of the United States and will provide the company services to the Australian market and the Asia-Pacific region.
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