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Inspired by a 13 years successful history of driving the British company Magna Parva Ltd., an international provider of Space engineering and technology development services, founders Andy Bowyer (CEO) and Miles Ashcroft (CTO) decided to settle their new spin-off Kleos Space in 2017 in tiny Luxembourg, the Grand-Duchy in the heart of Europe which features a cosmopolitan capital with over 170 different nationalities living here and a growing international business community. What’s more is that Luxembourg’s Government has a clear policy to invest into New Space technologies, a ground which seems nurturing for Kleos Space, whose ambition is to become a global space company with services offered to international governmental customers.
With a constellation goal of 20s satellite systems in low earth orbit – all crewed space stations to date, as well as the majority of satellites, have been in LEO- Kleos Space will as of mid-2019 observe the Earth, capturing data currently “hidden “ from commercial detection, data on “passive” radio transmissions without AIS, GPS or VMS protocol which will be used for answering real societal challenges, security and for defence purposes.
Satellites have played an enormous role in improving the state of the world, and will do even more as an explosion of technology innovation enables large new fleets of small satellites to be deployed with radical new capabilities for a wide range of Earth bound applications. For instance; it is common knowledge that satellite imagery can tell crop yield on a pixel by pixel basis – enabling farmers to better decide when to add water and fertilizer and when to harvest.
One major societal challenge that Space based Earth Observation can help with is for global fishing surveillance. Automatic Identification System (AIS) technology allows large >300Tn commercial fishing vessels to transmit their location and to be identified. AIS tracking technology was nevertheless designed to be used between ships at sea and using intra-ship messages for tracking their behaviour poses a number of challenges. AIS signals with vessel identities can be cryptic. What’s more is that, simply plotting a vessel’s track doesn’t tell us what that vessel is doing and AIS signals can be turned off and manipulated (leading to what is known as ghost shipping) forcing experts to rely on modelled/assumed knowledge about fishing and vessel behaviour in order to understand false signals and mistaken identity.
Kleos Space does not collect messages from vessel AIS transponders, the Kleos satellites will fill the information gaps and spoofed tracks using actual signal measurement and physics as opposed to interpretation as they help track and stop illegal fishing by capturing hidden “activity” for example from walky-talkies. In a first phase data will be captured by the satellites and send to the earth operation centre where they will be gathered and assembled. Kleos Space satellites will be highly accurate, enabling the location of transmissions through the use of multilateration techniques across multiple spacecraft.
Back in 2012, NASA’s Earth science division director Michael Freilich said in a town hall discussion at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union about the data purchase effort: “What we are recognizing is that many of you in the private sector have fielded constellations of small satellites for your own business reasons. He continued to say that those systems might also be collecting data of interest to NASA: “The question that we’re asking in NASA is what value do the data products that come from your small satellite constellations have to the government to advance our research, science and applications interests.”
If historically the space industry was reserved to governments, today governmental entities realise that private corporations with their binary approach -succeed or fail- are providing faster access to data and the markets, optimizing time and costs dramatically and providing additional layers of information to existing governmental information. Today NASA purchases Earth science data from commercial smallsat systems and private companies are penetrating sectors traditionally monopolized by government sources like Defence.
Kleos Space challenges the historical Government led Space based data structure as it will provide accessible, time critical daily solutions to global issues on defence operations, border protection, including illegal fishing, and humanitarian missions. This data is not only useful to countries in South- America or continents like Australia with their long coastlines. It affects the quality and the social responsibility we request all over the world when consuming fish for example. Interestingly this information can again be used by Governments to generally provide optimized quality of life and protection of substantial human rights as well as a mean to cross-check national intelligence information.
Earth observation today represents 14% of the private space economy (source Morgan Stanley Research; 2017/universe includes 93 companies). The earth observation data market is continuously expanding as the efficacy and scalability of the new datasets illustrate return on investment across industries expanding beyond government and into commercial enterprises. This is where government objectives can be reached with the support of private companies’ research and development as ours.
European countries (i.e. UK & Luxembourg) and Australia understand the importance and possible impact on national economies and quality of life by attracting new space companies and hence creating Space agencies. Luxembourg announced it would create its agency by summer 2018 and created a Space Resources initiative in 2016. The initiative contributed to the encouragement of Kleos Space to swiftly develop its strategy and prepare its listing on the ASX in order to gear up the funding process of its first satellite system, a financial process which had been led by Australian broker Hunter Capital.
The Australian Government recently decided to invest 500 million A$ to improve Australia’s space-based Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. Until 2020, the European Commission will allocate €590 million to the European Defence Fund making the EU one of the biggest defence research investors in Europe. As of 2020, the Commission is proposing to allocate at the minimum €1.5 billion per year. The Fund is not designed to substitute Member States’ defence investments, but to enable and accelerate their cooperation. Together with Member States’ contributions to finance joint development projects, the Fund could generate a total investment in defence research and capability development of €5.5 billion per year1. The Commission, in close cooperation with Member States experts and with input from the European Defence Agency, will establish annual work programmes. According to its annual budget for 2018, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) invests more than 1,455 M€ into earth observation, representing 26% of its total budget.
Kleos Space’s accessible and commercial solutions fit perfectly into the world’s countries concerns with regards to surveillance, intelligence gathering and defence issues. In only 12 months, it will provide a relevant solution to urgent requests. With its first satellite constellation the young company will demonstrate its technical predominance and proof of concept by providing accessible, raw data. In order to achieve this objective in a time-to-market approach, Kleos Space will overdrive the heavily-fuelled nano-satellites to feature a maximum of data.
The full satellite constellation will be shaped in order to respond to market and governmental needs and provide optimized and evaluated data across maritime plus land and air markets.
As the first satellite system is getting ready to be rolled out, Kleos Space is nurturing its offer to suit the needs of the NATO, 5 eyes, , European Commission, South-American regions which are typically investing into maritime projects and African countries who are keen to engage providers of border surveillance data.
Kleos Space reflects the values and vision of its CEO and co-founder Andy Bowyer who fully supports the Australian and Luxembourg Government’s understanding of the new space binary approach, in the case of Australia grounded in their historical investment into mining: high risk and no guarantee to succeed. Andy Bowyer is a true entrepreneur who lives to see his challenging projects succeed and who already looks to the next major growth steps around the globe.
1 Source: EU fact sheet- 7 June 2017