Canberra-based space services company Skykraft has raised more than $100 million to deploy its first air traffic management constellation in 2025, with the latest round attracting two new global investors.
The move is a major step for Skykraft’s ambitions to drive a new generation of air traffic management (ATM) systems aimed at improving air safety and efficiencies globally.
UK-listed fund manager Foresight Group, a company with $23.5 billion in funds under management, has participated in the latest round via its Australian subsidiary, while the capital raise also brings on board OPTrust, one of Canada’s largest pension funds with net assets of almost $28.5 billion.
Skykraft CEO Dr Michael Fraser says his company’s space-based ATM capability ‘will deliver on a clearly identified need in the global aviation sector’.
“Our partners share our confidence that Skykraft will be the key player providing the next generation of air traffic management services to the world,” Fraser says.
Skykraft is using satellites to establish a global air traffic management system that replaces existing ground-based technology, providing greater oversight of air space across remote areas, including oceans, that are currently not serviced.
The company, which is working with global air navigation service providers to ensure its system meets operational and safety requirements, says its space-based system will unlock significant efficiency gains and capability improvements for the sector.
After launching 20 satellites in 2023, Skykraft is planning another round of launces next year before completing final in-orbit testing prior to the roll-out of its initial constellation of satellites in 2025.
Skykraft ultimately envisages a constellation of hundreds of satellites in low-earth orbit to provide global air traffic management with space-based VHF (very high frequency) communications and surveillance.
The system is said to allow aircraft to follow more efficient flight paths, reducing operating costs and CO2 emissions.
“Skykraft's infrastructure solution has the capability to significantly enhance global aircraft tracking, minimise unnecessary air miles and improve aircraft sustainability,” says Meena Samaan, executive director of new investor Foresight Australia.
“As sustainably focused global infrastructure investors, we recognise the significance this could have for the aviation industry.”
OPTrust has recognised the ability of Skykraft's technology to revolutionise the air traffic management industry.
“Its innovative space-based infrastructure solution provides significant safety benefits to the aviation sector,” says Stan Kolenc, senior managing director of OPTrust.
“OPTrust has a strong track record of supporting the development of transport infrastructure platforms, and we are excited to support Skykraft in building out its satellite constellation.”
Main Sequence, the deep-tech investment fund founded by the CSIRO, also participated in the latest funding round.
“Skykraft is doing truly groundbreaking work that has the potential to transform aviation communications infrastructure,” says Main Sequence partner Martin Duursma.
“Their expertise in designing, building and operating satellite constellations enables them to provide global services that replace legacy systems.
“By reinventing transport infrastructure from the ground up using space-based platforms, they can increase air safety and address the gaps in surveillance and communications over oceans and remote regions.”
Skykraft, which was founded in 2017 as a spin off from space capabilities incubator UNSW Canberra Space, opened a new manufacturing facility in 2022.
The facility, located at the UNSW Canberra City campus, is the centre of production for the company from where it is producing satellites for its air traffic management system.
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