Kepler Communications has decided to go in-house to build its satellite constellation, and in so doing has become the second Canadian company to build a state-of-the-art small satellite manufacturing facility capable of mass production.
The other is the well known Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) which is also in Toronto. SFL however does not currently mass produce small satellites, though they have the space and capability.
Kepler is developing satellite communication technologies and has plans to provide global satellite data backhaul services for wideband and Internet of Things applications.
Kepler currently has two demonstration satellites on orbit, CASE and KIPP. A third, TARS, will launch sometime this spring. The TARS satellite is a partnership with the U.K. Catapult Satellite Applications organization for the In-Orbit Demonstration Mission 5 (IOD 5).
Kepler will also launch an undisclosed number of satellites this year on two missions, one with SpaceX and the other on a commercial Russian Soyuz launch operated by GK Launch Services and obtained through Innovative Space Logistics. The latter launch will see two Toronto-built production satellites launched this summer. It’s unknown how many satellites SpaceX has been contracted to launch, but they will launch in two batches before the end of the year.
The downtown Toronto manufacturing facility
The Kepler facility is located in the Chinatown area of downtown Toronto in the same small building that hosts Kepler’s headquarters. The manufacturing facility is 464 square metres (5,000 square feet) located on a whole floor of the building.
The move to go in-house is surely a blow to several companies whom had hoped to win a sizeable contract as Kepler plans on building 140 small satellites.
Kepler said the decision go in-house came “after an exhaustive analysis of the existing supply chain.”
In a press release Mina Mitry, Kepler’s CEO and co-founder said of the challenges, “we recognized early on that the smallsat industry has a significant challenge ahead in maturing the supply chain for various components and subsystems. At Kepler, we are taking steps to ensure we can reach our required cost and performance targets. This is a necessary step to deliver on our promise of affordable, global connectivity on Earth and in space.”
Partners who are helping Kepler include the aforementioned SFL and Sinclair Interplanetary. SpaceQ inquired on the details of the relationships with SFL and Sinclair, but a spokesperson for the company said they couldn’t get into those details. The Canadian Space Agency has also provided Kepler with some funding through its Space Technology Development Program.
We also asked how many satellites Kepler will build in the facility concurrently and how many satellites could they build concurrently? (if they ramped up manufacturing)? These are also details Kepler said they were unable to share at this time.
As per their modus operandi, Kepler provides little in the way of details about their plans.
Read more stories about Kepler in the SpaceQ archives.