Satellite startup Fleet lands $6.4m Australian defence contract

Defence in Space, Made in Australia: Connecting defence assets and personnel from low earth orbit. Image credit: Fleet Space Technologies

Adelaide-based Fleet Space Technologies has inked a $6.4 million contract with Australia’s Defence Space Command, marking the satellite tech startup’s first defence contract.

Under the auspices of the ASCEND2LEO program, Fleet’s Centauri satellites will be used to create a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite communications infrastructure focusing on tactical communications and data transmission in areas with limited connectivity, the company revealed in a news release. 

ASCEND2LEO is a combined research and development activity between Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG), Fleet Space Technologies, University of South Australia, Rice Satcom Pty Ltd and SmartSat CRC which involves “taking advanced research and technologies to demonstrate LEO capabilities to the warfighter.”

Defence Space Command director of space services Colonel Clifford White said Australia has a “talented space industry with an inventive spirit” that can add to military logistics.

“Space is operationally critical to the achievement of the Defence mission, and this is an example of innovative way to advance our capability and support the development of a sustainable national space enterprise,” he said.

White continued, “We look forward to working with Fleet Space as they bring new approaches to enhance satellite communication capabilities to meet Defence’s needs.”

Matt Pearson, chief exploration officer and co-founder of Fleet Space Technologies, expressed his excitement to team up with Defence Space Command and their partners to deliver new capabilities from low Earth orbit

“This is only the beginning and we envision Australian satellites supporting national security across land, air, sea and space by connecting our people, our assets and by enabling radical ideas in autonomy and emerging technologies,” Pearson noted. 

Meanwhile, SmartSat CEO Professor Andy Koronios said the “ambitious” ASCEND2LEO project would achieve the Defence Space Strategy goal that “Defence may benefit from repurposing civilian technology for military means, without having to invest in R&D or venture incubation.”

“SmartSat was able to work with Fleet to develop a proposal to do just this – repurpose technology being used for world leading mineral exploration, and technology SmartSat developed to build more resilient Search and Rescue infrastructure, into a demonstration of tactical voice communications,” Koronios explained.

Founded in 2015, Fleet Space has focused on developing low-power, high-performance edge computing in small satellites and terrestrial devices, as well as additive manufacturing and has a strong client base in the mining sector for minerals exploration.