• The first Alpha satellites are planned to launch in 2022, with high speed global continuous connectivity coverage planned by 2026. (Fleet Space Technologies)
    The first Alpha satellites are planned to launch in 2022, with high speed global continuous connectivity coverage planned by 2026. (Fleet Space Technologies)

Fleet Space Technologies has announced the development of a new constellation of 3D-printed small satellites named Alpha, with the first satellites ready for launch in 12 months. 

Leveraging experience from the operation of the company’s growing constellation of small satellites, Fleet Space says it will be able to expand its coverage reach and provide down to sub-second latency, providing a cost-effective means to unlock unprecedented connectivity more quickly and in more locations.

Empowered by a recent US$26.4 million (AU$37.5) Series B investment, the startup has expanded the scope of its dedicated research and development arm to create the Alpha small satellite. The creation of the world’s first entirely 3D printed satellite integrates Fleet’s advanced beamforming technology and patented antennas. 

The Alpha satellites will sit alongside the existing Centauri constellation. Like Alpha, Fleet Space’s latest Centauri 4 small satellite, developed in collaboration with Tyvak, has been integrated with Fleet Space’s smallsat digital beamforming technology that uses an array of multiple 3D printed all-metal antennas along with Digital Signal Processing. According to Fleet Space, this beamforming technology provides a substantial increase in throughput of customer IoT data and can service a higher number of customer terminals at once. It does this by generating a high number of highly-directional low-interfering beams in point-to-point satellite communications. This reportedly achieves a high spectral efficiency which improves quality of service through enhanced frequency re-use, faster data rates and more link robustness. Integrating this digital beamforming into a Low Orbit Satellite, not much larger than a half a square meter, is a world first. 

Fleet Space has a track record of using advanced manufacturing methods such as 3D printing, including a world-first in metal 3D-printing patch antennas for small satellites. Alpha satellites will have up to 64 of these antennas on board versus only four in the Centauri 4. This represents a 16-fold increase in performance while being only four times heavier. 

According to Fleet Space, the deployment of the SmallSat Alpha constellation will service the crucial satellite communications sector by providing limitless connectivity and will add data driven applications. Working alongside its existing SmallSat Centauri constellation, it is expected to unlock new markets with continuous coverage, a high data rate of up to 520 kbps and tailored frequency bands servicing current and future generations of IoT devices. 

Alongside Fleet Space’s advanced smallsats, homegrown Australian technology is also supporting the wider space industry. Fleet Space is leading the Seven Sisters’ Australian space industry consortium in support of NASA’s Artemis program to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024 and create a sustainable human presence for later crewed Martian exploration. Commencing in 2023, the Seven Sisters missions are designed to find accessible water and other resources on the Moon and Mars. 

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