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Kepler raises $92M for optical satellite links

18 Apr 2023

Toronto startup planning to launch optical data relay infrastructure next year.

Kepler Communications, a Toronto-headquartered company with plans to build a satellite constellation for optical data communications, says it has raised a further $92 million in a series C round of venture funding.

The cash, which follows a $60 million series B round in 2021 and brings its total funding beyond $200 million, will be used to launch an optical data relay infrastructure in 2024, complementing the firm’s existing radio-frequency network.

If all goes according to plan, Kepler expects to make its optical services available to customers from early 2025.

’Mars and beyond’
“Kepler’s optical communications infrastructure will use two near-orthogonal planes of relay satellites in sun-synchronous orbits, with satellites in each plane continuously connected using SDA (i.e. software-defined access)-compatible optical inter-satellite links,” stated the firm.

It also plans to launch two “Pathfinder” satellites later this year, to test and validate the optical communication links developed for the constellation.

Last year, Kepler signed a deal with Germany’s TESAT to provide “ConLCT80” laser communication terminals to be installed on the low-Earth orbit (LEO) network.

The first orbital plane of the Kepler Network will be deployed at an altitude of 600 km, and capable of providing on-demand data at a rate of up to 2.5 Gb/s.

Based just outside Stuttgart, TESAT has previously provided laser communications terminals for links deployed by the European Space Agency, and has worked with BridgeComm (previously BridgeSat) - a US company also looking to build an optical network in space.

Brad Gillespie, general partner at Kepler's series C lead investor IA Ventures, said of the latest developments: “Exponentially decreasing launch costs make space more accessible than ever, but connectivity beyond Earth is still costly, challenging, and inconsistent.

“The Kepler Network solves this by providing a fast, open, developer-friendly network enabling ‘it-just-works’ connectivity between any asset in space and back to Earth - and someday to Mars and beyond!"

Ground-to-space deal
Kepler says that its approach will streamline on-orbit communications with a network infrastructure designed to act as Internet exchange points for space-to-space data relay.

The “Internet-ready” constellation will deliver data to and from spacecraft in real time, enabling high-speed data relay through SDA-standard optical terminals, it explains.

Kepler’s CEO and co-founder Mina Mitry added: “As we build out The Kepler Network, we are solving challenges the industry faces and simplifying mission communications by bringing modern Internet capabilities into space.

“Internet services on Earth completely transformed civilization, and we believe extending the Internet to space will have the same far-reaching impact.”

• Coincidentally, Denver-based BridgeComm has just signed a deal with the Florida Space Coast firm X-Lumin to manufacture and sell new ground-to-space (G2S) optical links.

Designed for all-weather locations, operating at high availability around-the-clock, the system is intended to function as a ground terminal supporting bi-directional links to satellites in low-, medium-, or geostationary Earth orbits.

“With this exclusive teaming agreement, BridgeComm and X-lumin will make this comprehensive laser communications solution available to provide superior quality ground-to-space optical communications from anywhere in the world,” they said.

X-Lumin CEO and co-founder Diana LaTour added: “BridgeComm has been a great partner for us, and this agreement helps solidify our complete offering of lasercom [sic] solutions for both space applications as well as telecommunications service providers here on Earth.”

X-Lumin’s products include point-to-point optical wireless links for terrestrial use and an optical tracking system for satellites, as well as an optical ground station supporting bi-directional links to LEO, MEO and GEO satellites.

TRIOPTICS GmbHFirst Light ImagingMad City Labs, Inc.SPECTROGON ABSchaefter und Kirchhoff GmbHHÜBNER PhotonicsLASEROPTIK GmbH
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