Kepler books transport vehicle for next launch

TAMPA, Fla. – Canada’s Kepler Communications said on June 30 that it plans to use D-Orbit’s orbital transfer vehicle for the next two satellites in its low data rate constellation.

The Kepler-20 and Kepler-21 satellites will board the Italian space logistics company’s ION Satellite Carrier, which has booked a flight on a rocket in the first quarter of 2023 that the companies declined to disclose.

After detaching from the launch vehicle, D-Orbit plans to use ION to launch Kepler’s satellites into a sun synchronous orbit (SSO) between 500 and 600 kilometers. Each satellite is the size of six cubesats, a standard smallsat form factor of 10 centimeters on each side.

ION and orbital transfer vehicles developed by other companies provide satellite operators with operational efficiencies, allowing them to save fuel by moving their spacecraft to custom orbits after launch.

Although D-Orbit spokesman Elena Ceraso declined to identify the launch vehicle that will put ION into orbit, she said this is not the company’s mission. announced on June 22 with German startup Isar Aerospace

Kepler currently operates 19 satellites to provide connectivity to devices beyond the reach of terrestrial networks.

The first two were three-unit cubes, Kepler Chief Technology Officer Wen Chong said, and the remaining 17 are six-unit spacecraft.

As with two of the four Kepler satellites that launched on January 13 during a SpaceX Falcon 9 rideshare mission, he said Kepler-20 and Kepler-21 will have an S-band terminal to test intersatellite links.

Kepler plans to use inter-satellite links to leverage a data relay constellation of larger satellites that it plans to deploy early next year.

Canadian company has begun testing connections between satellites earlier this year for its Aether data relay network.

In October 2020, Kepler announced an agreement to use Momentus Space’s Vigoride transport vehicle to deploy two satellites in 2021.

However, Momentus Space experienced technical and regulatory delays, which ultimately caused the company to launch its product first Vigoride mission May 25 on a Falcon 9, with no Kepler on board.

Momentus began trading stocks on Nasdaq in August following its merger with Stable Road Acquisition Corp, a special acquisition company (SPAC).

D-Orbit announced its own SPAC merger plan in January to become a publicly traded company in the third quarter of 2022.

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