TAMPA, Fla. — Launches for OQ Technology’s narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) constellation are set to resume Oct. 4 after Arianespace moved the Luxembourg venture to its next Vega mission, instead of an upgraded version of the rocket that failed last year.
Arianespace had planned to launch OQ Technology’s European Space Agency-backed MACSAT (MAChine SATellite) in March on a Vega C, which has not flown since a second-stage malfunction during a December 2022 launch that destroyed two Pléiades Neo imaging satellites.
Europe had hoped to return Vega C to flight by the end of 2023 to launch the Sentinel-1C radar imaging satellite. However, a solid rocket motor malfunctioned during a Vega C static-fire test June 28, likely pushing a return to service into 2024.
According to the European Space Agency, the last Vega C failed after a component in the motor called a throat insert, provided by Yuzhnoye of Ukraine, eroded during the launch. The original Vega rocket uses a different motor in its second stage that does not have a throat insert from Yuzhnoye.
OQ Technology founder and CEO Omar Qaise said MACSAT no longer needs to wait for Vega C because it is joining 11 other satellites sharing a ride on a Vega — one of the last two remaining original versions of the rocket.
THEOS-2 (THailand Earth Observation System-2) is the mission’s primary payload, according to Arianespace, which lists Taiwan’s Formosat-7 meteorological satellite as its secondary passenger.
Like the five satellites OQ Technology already has in low Earth orbit, MACSAT is a 6U cubesat that would provide low bandwidth connectivity for off-the-grid tracking and monitoring devices.
In addition to Kongsberg NanoAvionics-built MACSAT, the venture has four other 6U satellites on order that Qaise said are slated to launch by early next year via SpaceX Falcon 9 Transporter rideshare missions.
Two are also using satellite platforms from Lithuana’s NanoAvionics, while Denmark-based Space Inventor is under contract for the other two.
Depending on the region, Qaise said its constellation can currently communicate with devices every six to eight hours a day.
Plans to operate 10 satellites next year would enable connectivity every two to four hours, which he said would open up more applications in the logistics, energy, utilities, and maritime markets where OQ Technology sees most demand.
Oil and gas giant Saudi Aramco is OQ Technology’s largest customer and co-led a 13 million euro ($14 million) series A investment round last year for the company.
Alongside other startups, established satellite operators including EchoStar and SpaceX are also seeking to grow market share in the fledgling market for connecting Internet of Things devices from space.