Kinéis takes control of Argos system, finalizes successor constellation plans

Space

SAN FRANCISCO — Kinéis, a subsidiary formed last year by French maritime company CLS, has taken over operation of the Argos hosted payload system, and finalized manufacturing agreements for a constellation of 25 small satellites for Internet of Things connectivity.

Alexandre Tisserant, Kinéis CEO, said assuming operational responsibility from CLS for the seven Argos payloads provides the company with a revenue stream while manufacturing and launching a more capable smallsat system.

Kinéis and its manufacturing partners — Thales Alenia Space for payloads and Hemeria (formerly Nexeya) for spacecraft chassis — have finalized the constellation design and are preparing to start production June 21, according to a news release.

Kinéis’ constellation has changed slightly since first described in September. Tisserant said the manufacturing team found ways to streamline the constellation’s cost from a projected 120 million euros ($134.7 million) to 100 million euros. The constellation also grew by five satellites — a decision Tisserant said came from the realization that building and launching 25 satellites together was more cost effective than restarting manufacturing and launch for a subsequent five satellites later on.

Kinéis is still raising funds for its constellation. Tisserant declined to state how much the company has raised, saying only that discussions are ongoing to close a funding round this year.

Operating the Argos system should produce “several million euros” in annual revenue and will establish Kinéis with a positive ebitda, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, by the beginning of next year, he said.

Kinéis’ constellation of 16-unit low-Earth-orbit cubesats will be able to provide two-way communications to sensors and devices globally, providing an upgrade over Argos, which only receives uplinks. The constellation of 25- to 28-kilogram smallsats will also be able to connect to IoT objects anywhere, Tisserant said, not just in the maritime domain like Argos.

Tisserant said Kinéis’ control of the Argos system helped the company forge partnerships with Objenious, an IoT division of Bouygues Telecom, and with the Wize Alliance, an IoT nonprofit with more than 6 million devices connected through its technology.

Kinéis has Argos payloads on satellites from Europe, India and the U.S. Tisserant said two more Argos payloads are planned before the smallsat constellation — a 12-unit cubesat called ANGELS (Argos Néo on a Generic Economical and Light Satellite) demonstrating miniaturized Argos technology, and a hosted payload on India’s Oceansat-3 satellite. ANGELS launches in October aboard an Arianespace Soyuz with the Cosmo-SkyMed Second Generation and CHEOPS spacecraft. Tisserant said the Oceansat-3 mission launches in 2020, ensuring continuity of service in the event that one of the older Argos satellites is decommissioned before the smallsat constellation is ready.

The first launch for Kinéis’ new constellation is planned for 2022, having slipped from late 2021 because of manufacturing contract negotiations and finalizing the system design, Tisserant said. The constellation will begin service in 2022, he said.

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