Kymeta and Kepler test satellite connectivity amid Arctic chill

Kymeta’s u8 terminal has its flat-panel antenna turned to the sky in the Canadian Arctic town of Inuvik. (Business Wire Photo)

Kymeta Corp. — the hybrid connectivity venture that’s based in Redmond, Wash. — says it has demonstrated how its flat-panel antenna can hook up with Kepler Communications’ satellite constellation for high-speed data transfers under the chilliest of circumstances.

It’s the latest team-up between Kymeta, which counts Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates among its backers; and Kepler, a Canadian space startup that graduated from the Techstars Seattle incubator program back in 2016.

Kepler is one of several companies that are putting satellites into low Earth orbit, or LEO — a group that also includes SpaceX and OneWeb, plus Amazon’s yet-to-be-launched Project Kuiper constellation.

Those other companies are focusing on consumer and enterprise internet access. In contrast, Kepler is concentrating on satellite-based, high-capacity networking for smart devices that make use of the Internet of Things. One of its leading products is called the Global Data Service.

Over the past winter, Kepler put Kymeta’s next-generation u8 satellite-cellular data service to the test in the Canadian Arctic community of Inuvik, where temperatures can drop to tens of degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

Today the two companies announced that the cold-weather test was a success. Uplink and downlink speeds averaged 100 megabits per second (Mbps), allowing for the transfer of more than 2 gigabytes of data with each satellite pass.

“The performance of the Kymeta u8 with Kepler’s Global Data Service has exceeded our expectations.” Wen Cheng Chong, Kepler’s chief technology officer and co-founder, said in a news release.

“Our recent testing and development efforts demonstrated not only the ability to move many more gigabytes of data than expected with each pass, but also the u8’s ability to operate in polar environments, where many of Kepler’s early adopters operate,” he said.

David Harrover, Kymeta’s senior vice president of global sales, said the test will help his company set a course for future collaborations with multiple satellite mega-constellations. “Many of our customers are interested in compatibility with LEO satellite services, and this testing helps ensure the longevity of the u8 and Kymeta Connect as well as offer a solution that takes advantage of the increased utility of LEO satellites,” he said.

OneWeb has said Arctic regions will be among the first markets targeted, potentially by the end of this year. It’s planning to have 36 of its satellites launched from Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome on Thursday.

Kymeta is in the process of increasing its capacity as well. Eight of its satellites were launched last month as part of SpaceX’s Transporter-1 mission, with Seattle-based Spaceflight Inc. providing logistical support.

A Russian Soyuz rocket sent another two Kepler satellites into orbit on Monday, boosting the company’s active constellation to 15 satellites in all.

“With Kepler’s recently increased capacity, the u8 can serve customers globally, pole-to-pole and all points in between,” Chong said.

Kepler’s next satellite launch is scheduled for June, when average high temperatures in Inuvik can get above 65 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius).