A BURGEONING space company is embarking on a whirlwind global tour to raise funds to launch a constellation of nanosatellites connecting billions of devices with the Internet of Things.
Fleet Space Technologies, based in Adelaide, South Australia, secured $5 million in funding in April, to help it launch its first two satellites in 2018.
CEO Flavia Tata Nardini, spoke at an Internet of Things forum in Delft in the Netherlands on Monday and has been selected to pitch to investors including Elon Musk in Washington, DC, next week at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference.
It will be Musk’s second brush with South Australia this month after flying to Adelaide last week to announce his company Tesla would install the world’s biggest lithium ion battery at a wind farm in the state.
It is an important time for Australia’s emerging space industry as it prepares to host the 68th International Astronautical Congress – the year’s most important space meeting – in Adelaide in September.
Dr Tata Nardini, a former European Space Agency rocket scientist, has also joined a chorus of voices calling for Australia to establish a national space agency to support its AU$4 billion a year space industry.
Fleet Space Technologies CEO Flavia Tata Nardini.
She said the millions raised by space startups in Australia in the past six months had created a great deal of momentum ahead of the International Astronautical Congress, which would be a further opportunity to spruik the local offering.
“The conference in September is such an important moment,” Dr Tata Nardini said last week before heading to Europe.
“2017 is a space year for Australia so we hope all this momentum will inspire the government to make decisions.”
Fleet aims to have a constellation of more than 100 of its nanosatellites – measuring just 30cm x 30cm x 40cm each – in orbit by 2022 potentially connecting up to 75 billion devices to the Internet of Things.
The company believes the technology is ideal for creating a low-bandwidth global network to directly connect the millions of digital sensors already beginning to transform industries such as agriculture, logistics and mining. Vital remote areas that could significantly benefit from improved connectivity include the Amazon Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.
“We are working in the Amazon Rainforest where people physically measure 500,000 trees a year with a caliper in the middle of nowhere because there is no connectivity,” Italian born Dr Tata Nardini said.
“People? You can do this with a sensor.”
“All the world is going to change when you can measure things because efficiencies start increasing. The Internet of Things is going to hit us all and change everything … we are talking about major industry changing the way they operate forever.”
Fleet has booked its first satellite launch with SpaceX in early 2018 with a second deployment planned for the middle of the year.
“It will be the first Australian satellite on an Elon Musk rocket,” Dr Tata Nardini, who co-founded Fleet in 2015 said.
“With one satellite in LEO (Low Earth Orbit) you more or less cover all of earth – almost 90 per cent of the planet – so the first two will do a couple of tricks for us, they will show our tech, they will start connecting our first customers and they will secure frequencies.”
Dr Tata Nardini did not say exactly how much investment was being sought in the latest bid, which was hoped to fund at least half of the constellation.
She said ideally the company, which has offices in the United States and Europe, would remain headquartered in South Australia.
“We provide connectivity to industry in remote areas and Australia is huge and a lot of the industry is in remote areas. All of our customers here – and we see the same issue in Asia and South America – they suffer from no connectivity,” Dr Tata Nardini said.
“The South Australian Government is also very supportive and several space companies have moved to the state in recent months.
“It’s an incredible engineering ecosystem – we all know each other –so far it’s been a great advantage to be here.
“The Internet of Things is the next Industrial Revolution and it’s a huge market – we are talking about 75 billion devices.”
About 3500 delegates are expected to attend the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide from September 25-29 including the heads of the world’s leading space agencies.