India to Launch IoT-Powered Spacecraft

By Rich Handley

Spaceflight will put four Astrocast vessels featuring Internet of Things technologies into Earth orbit, under arrangement with NewSpace India.

Seattle-based launch services provider Spaceflight has announced that it plans to launch four Astrocast 3U spacecraft aboard India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) mission, under a commercial arrangement with NewSpace India Ltd. (NSIL). This mission, scheduled to take place next month, will launch from Sriharikota, at India's Satish Dhawan Space Center, carrying the Astrocast spacecraft as a co-passenger to Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO), along with India's national primary satellite.

NSIL, a Government of India company under the country's Department of Space, is the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). The company is involved in various space business activities, and it launches customer satellites onboard ISRO's launch vehicle. This latest mission, according to the companies, represents Spaceflight's eighth PSLV launch and its fourth supporting Astrocast's Internet of Things (IoT)-based nanosatellite network and constellation. Once this mission is complete, Spaceflight will have launched 16 such spacecraft with Astrocast, enabling businesses to track assets in remote regions.

India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle mission

India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle mission

Spaceflight provides space transportation through its suite of launch services and Sherpa orbital transfer vehicles. The firm has launched hundreds of satellites to date, and it is part of Mitsui & Co.'s portfolio, operating as an independent U.S.-based company. Astrocast operates a nanosatellite IoT network, offering services in such industries such as agriculture, livestock, maritime, environment and utilities. Its network enables business to monitor and communicate with remote assets anywhere around the world, and it maintains partnerships with Airbus, CEA/LETI and ESA.

"PSLV has long been a reliable and valuable launch partner to Spaceflight, and we're excited to work with NSIL again after the COVID-19 restrictions of the last few years," said Curt Blake, Spaceflight's CEO, in a prepared statement. "By having experience working with many different launch providers around the world, we are able to identify missions that meet our customer's exact needs—whether that's driven by schedule, cost or destination. As Astrocast builds its network and constellation, we can offer them a range of launch options, flexibility and customization to support their long-term plans."

Astrocast's low-Earth-orbit constellation of satellites offers bidirectional communication and modules that connect assets moving across its network. The small modules and antenna are designed to allow systems integrators to place a module on any device, ranging from fishing buoys to container trackers or moving animals. The solution is intended to minimize the need for human intervention and repair.

According to the companies, Astrocast is a long-time Spaceflight customer. In March 2022, the satellite IoT (SatIoT) network operator extended its multi-launch agreement with Spaceflight to accommodate the fast-growing IoT constellation. Spaceflight had previously launched 12 Astrocast spacecraft into orbit, including demonstration models, dating back to the SSO-A mission in 2018 and the PSLV-C45 in 2019. The companies most recently partnered to launch an additional five nanosatellites aboard the SpaceX Transporter-1 in January 2021.

To date, Spaceflight has executed more than 50 launches taking more than 450 customer payloads to orbit. This year, the company carried out inaugural launches of its Sherpa-AC and Sherpa-LTC vehicles. Its next orbital test vehicle (OTV) mission is expected to take place in mid-2023, launching Spaceflight's Sherpa-ES bipropellant, high delta-V OTV aboard the GEO Pathfinder lunar slingshot mission.

"This launch is helping us get closer to accomplishing our mission of building and operating the most advanced and sustainable satellite IoT network," said Kjell Karlsen, Astrocast's CFO, in the prepared statement. "Our long-standing relationship with Spaceflight and their access to, and experience with, an extensive portfolio of vehicles has provided us with the flexibility and customization needed to launch our satellites. Assured access to space is critical for us as we grow our network, and our partnership with Spaceflight enables us to efficiently build out our constellation."