ÅAC Clyde to build Kepler Communications TARS satellite

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the launch dates for satellites in the constellation and the value of the contract, which the companies declined to disclose.

SAN FRANCISCO — Kepler Communications, a Canadian startup designing a telecommunications constellation, selected ÅAC Clyde, the company being formed by Sweden’s AAC Microtec and Scotland’s Clyde Space, to build TARS, a six-unit cubesat for machine-to-machine communications. The companies did not disclose the value of the contract.

TARS is the final prototype Kepler plans to launch before sending ten GEN1 satellites into orbit in 2020, launching 50 GEN2 satellites in 2021 and completing its 140-spacecraft constellation in 2022. The United Kingdom’s Satellite Applications Catapult, a nonprofit in Harwell, Oxfordshire, that supports emerging technologies, is helping Kepler fund the TARS mission and establish an office in the United Kingdom.

ÅAC Clyde also built Kepler’s first satellite, KIPP, a three-unit cubesat launched in January on a Chinese Long March 11 rocket, and CASE, its second three-unit cubesat slated for launch this year. “TARS will determine the capacity and performance required to deliver narrowband services globally, while augmenting the high-capacity store-and-forward capabilities provided by” KIPP and CASE, according to ÅAC Clyde’s Aug. 24 announcement.

More than two dozen companies are designing, building or launching satellites for Internet-of-Things constellations to respond to what entrepreneurs see as global demand to monitor and track equipment and facilities in rural and remote areas.

“We have developed a great relationship with ÅAC Clyde through the developments of KIPP and CASE, and are glad to be able to continue to work together on what is to be the most technologically complex and capable spacecraft for us thus far,”Jared Bottoms, Kepler’s lead systems engineer, said in a statement.

KIPP and CASE are equipped with Kepler’s software defined radio and an antenna array for Ku-communications. TARS will carry a full suite of upgraded communications and processing units developed by Kepler, according to the announcement.