Kepler Communications, a Canadian satellite telecommunications company, is to begin production in its newly commissioned satellite manufacturing facility in Toronto, Canada. It is being described as an essential step towards delivering the company’s proposed fleet of 140 satellites for high-capacity global connectivity services with applications in maritime, agriculture, research and exploration, government, and transportation.
Kepler currently operates two small satellites in orbit, the world’s first-ever to deliver high-speed connectivity over the North Pole in November last year. Rather than contracting from third parties, the new facility will allow the company to vertically integrate the development, production, and testing of its future spacecraft. It will also speed up the build-out of Kepler’s constellation to bring connectivity in areas that are currently underserved by terrestrial networks.
“With our new facility in place, we solve a key challenge to scaling our business – the mass production of highly capable spacecraft. Leveraging our unique partnerships, the satellites we produce will fly systems that have decades of learning embedded into them,” explains Kepler’s CEO and co-founder Mina Mitry. “This facility will bring many highly capable Kepler satellites to life at unmatched costs and help us deliver service globally.”
The new facility will significantly benefit the local economy with the opening of new high-tech jobs in Toronto, creating opportunities for local talent and strengthening the role of Canada in the aerospace manufacturing industry as a whole. Millions of Canadian dollars in capital will be invested into the city, benefitting the Canadian partners and suppliers who support Kepler’s expanding operations and growing teams.
Increasing demand from new commercial space companies has placed a greater strain on satellite manufacturing in the last 20 years. Greater numbers of new satellites, funded through commercial investment and government contracts, have congested the supply chain. Coupled with expectations of an exponential increase in commercial launch activity in the near future, more satellite manufacturing capacity than ever is needed to meet market demand.
“We recognized early on that the smallsat industry has a significant challenge ahead in maturing the supply chain for various components and subsystems,” says Mitry. Kepler’s decision to pursue manufacturing in-house comes after an exhaustive analysis of the existing supply chain. “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.”
With the opening of its manufacturing facility, Kepler will be among the few commercial space companies that operate with vertically integrated production. And in doing so it will establish the foundation to meet performance and economic targets, and ensure a fully operable constellation by the end of 2022.
Leveraging a partnership with Spaceflight Laboratory (SFL), and with recent funding from the Canadian Space Agency’s Space Technology Development Program, Kepler has optimized its new high-performance satellite platform for production in large quantities.
Kepler’s final demonstration satellite is scheduled for launch in Spring 2020, closely followed by the launch of its first two Toronto-built, commercial-grade satellites in the summer. Two more satellite batches are planned for launch before the end of the year on the SpaceX Falcon 9 satellite launch vehicle.