Fleet Space Technologies raises $7.35M for its space-based IoT tech – gpgmail


Australian satellite startup Fleet Space Technologies has raised a $7.35 million round of funding to help launch its next generation of nanosatellites, extremely small satellites it employs to deliver Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity to customers globally.

Fleet’s satellites are roughly the size of shoe boxes, which are much cheaper and easier to launch than traditional geocommnications satellites, and the company intends to use a globe-spanning constellation of these in order to serve needs like tracking construction equipment assets, monitoring pipelines and other utility infrastructure and more.

Already, Fleet has launched four of its nanosatellites to orbit on a number of different rockets, including an Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) rocket, a Rocket Lab launch and via SpaceX . Its existing fleet is only a very small part of its planned constellation, but already the startup says it has witnessed “unprecedented demand” from more than three million compatible devices registered to join their network.

Connected IoT in industrial applications is a huge potential market, and could be made up of more than 14 billion low-power devices by 2025, Fleet Space says, based on IDC estimates. That’s a lot of hardware that needs to be able to effectively connect to, and communicate with, central hubs. Edge computing is a huge trend right now, where a lot of these previously fairly rudimentary on-device sensors and monitors are able to do more processing on-site, but at some point the value of a network of IoT devices is that the resulting data can be collected, analyzed, turned into product improvements and redeployed.

Fleet’s nanosatellite (dog for scale). Image courtesy of Fleet.

Fleet’s tech is the connective tissue that can bind all these devices in a way that’s much more scalable and affordable for commercial and industrial clients large and small. Satellite-based network coverage works in tandem with ground-based networks, which helps ensure there aren’t any blind spots in industries where communication can be hard to come by, like agriculture, forestry and mining.

This round of funding includes investment from Momenta Ventures and Horizon Ventures, and adds to the previous $5 million AUD ($3.4 million USD) that Fleet raised previously from Blackbird Ventures and Grok Ventures, with contribution from the South Australian government.


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Rocket Lab successfully launches rideshare rocket with two experimental USAF satellites on board – gpgmail


Rocket Lab has successfully launched its eight mission, an Electron rocket rideshare flight carrying four satellites to orbit for various clients. The Electron launched from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand, at 12:12 AM NZST (8:12 AM ET). This was its second attempt, after a scrub last week due to adverse weather conditions on the launch range.

On board, it carried a rideshare mission from launch services provider Spaceflight, which works to bring together payloads to simplify the process of finding a provider for smaller payloads and companies. The Spaceflight portion of the payload included three satellites: One satellite from BlackSky, which does Earth-imaging, and which will join its twin launched by Rocket Lab in June already in low-Earth orbit to form a constellation.

Spaceflight’s cargo also included two experimental satellites launched by the U.S. Air Force Space Command, which will carry out tests of new technology related to spacecraft propulsion, power, communications and more, and which are designed to pave the way for deployment of related technologies in future spacecraft.

There’s also a fourth satellite on board, a CubeSat that will be the anchor for a new constellation aimed at providing up-to-date and accurate monitoring of maritime traffic, operated by Unseenlabs.

Rocket Lab’s New Zealand LC-1 will be joined by a second launch site in Virginia, to provide a U.S.-based complimentary launch site for serving customers on a monthly basis.

The company also plans to eventually make its Electron rockets reusable, even though they were originally intended as fully expendable launch vehicles, using a recovery process that involves catching returning rockets mid-air after they re-enter Earth’s atmosphere. Today’s launch included a test of recovery equipment for the Electron’s first stage – an initial test that aimed to have the rocket land back in the Pacific via parachute, where Rocket Lab will attempt to pick it up from the ocean for potential refurbishment.


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Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket will go reusable, with the company aiming for mid-air helicopter recovery – gpgmail


Private rocket launch startup and SpaceX competitor Rocket Lab made a big announcement today: It’ll be looking to re-use the first stage of its Electron rockets, returning them to Earth with a controlled landing after they make their initial trip to orbit with the payload on board. The landing sequence will be different from SpaceX’s however: They’ll attempt to catch the returned first stage mid-air using a helicopter.

That’s in part because, as Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck told a crowd when announcing the news today, the company is”not doing a propulsive re-entry” and “we’re not doing a propulsive landing,” and instead will leach off its immense speed upon return to Earth through a turnaround burn in space before releasing a parachute to slow it down enough for a helicopter to catch it.

There are a number of steps required to get to that point, but already, Rocket Lab has been looking to measure all the data it needs to ensure this is possible through its last few launches. It’s upgrading the instrumentation for its eighth flight to gather yet more data, and then on flight 10 it’ll have the rocket splash down into the ocean to recover that rocket for even more learning. Then, during a flight to be determined later (Beck is unwilling to put a number on it at this stage) they’ll try to actually bring one down in good enough shape to reuse it.

As for why, there’s a clear advantage to being able to re-fly rockets, and it’s a simple one to understand when you realize that there’s huge amount of demand for commercial launches.

“The fundamental reason we’re doing this is launch frequency,” Beck said. “Even if I can get the stage done once, I can effectively double production ratio.”

Beck also added that the biggest difficulty will be braking the rocket’s speed as it returns to Earth – a feat next to which he said the actual mid-air capture of the Electron via helicopter is actually pretty easy, from his POV as an amateur helicopter pilot in training.

Rocket Lab has an HQ in Huntington Beach, California and its own private launch site in New Zealand, was founded in 2006 by Beck. The company has been test launching its orbital Electron rocket since 2017, and serving customers commercially since 2018. It also intends to launch from Virginia in the U.S. starting in 2019.

The company revealed its Photon satellite platform earlier this year, which would allow small satellite operators to focus on their specific service and use the off-the-shelf Photon design to skip the step of actually designing and building the satellite itself.


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Is space truly within reach for startups and VC? – TechCrunch


Elon Musk’s SpaceX managed to pull off something very few people thought it could — by disrupting one of the most fixed markets in the world with some of the most entrenched and protected players ever to benefit from government contract arrangements: rocket launches. The success of SpaceX, and promising progress from other new launch providers, including Blue Origin and Rocket Lab, have encouraged interest in space-based innovation among entrepreneurs and investors alike. But is this a true boom, or just a blip?

There’s an argument for both at once, with one type of space startup rapidly descending to Earth in terms of commercialization timelines and potential upside, and the other remaining a difficult bet to make unless you’re comfortable with long timelines before any liquidity event and a lot of upfront investment.

Cheaper, faster, lighter, better

Image via Getty Images / Andrey Suslov

There’s no question that one broad category of technology at least is a lot more addressable by early-stage companies (and by extension, traditional VC investment). The word “satellite” once described almost exclusively gigantic, extremely expensive hunks of sophisticated hardware, wherein each component would eat up the monthly burn rate of your average early-stage consumer tech venture.



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