Kepler decides to build its 140-satellite cubesat constellation in-house

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WASHINGTON — Kepler Communications has decided to manufacture its cubesat satellite constellation in-house.

The company said Jan. 28 it will build its constellation of 140 cubesats in a 5,000-square-foot facility it commissioned late last year at its Toronto headquarters. 

Kepler CEO Mina Mitry said the company made that decision after an “exhaustive analysis” of the supply chain for smallsats, concluding that the industry has “a significant challenge ahead in maturing the supply chain” for smallsat components.

Mitry told SpaceNews that Kepler considered around 10 different smallsat manufacturers before deciding to build its satellites in-house.

Kepler relied on AAC Clyde to build its first two prototype satellites, three-unit cubesats that were launched into low Earth orbit in 2018. AAC Clyde is also finishing Kepler’s third prototype, a six-unit cubesat that’s slated to launch this spring. 

AAC Clyde CEO Luis Gomes told SpaceNews that AAC Clyde couldn’t offer Kepler the right mix of  “price, schedule and technology” to build the company’s constellation.

Mitry said Kepler’s first two in-house satellites are already under construction and slated to launch this summer on a Soyuz rideshare launch arranged through Glavkosmos.

Fewer than 10 of Kepler’s nearly 50 employees are dedicated to satellite building, according to Mitry. Kepler has received help designing its cubesat bus from the Canadian Space Agency, the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies’ Space Flight Laboratory, and Sinclair Interplanetary, a Toronto component supplier that told SpaceNews it licensed a reaction wheel design for Kepler to build in-house.