UK-based Satellite Applications Catapult has teamed up with Canadian startup Kepler Communications to develop a satellite prototype before launching Kepler’s future constellation of 140 satellites.

Development of the prototype satellite, ‘TARS’, will be carried out under the In-Orbit Demonstration Programme (IOD) awarded by Catapult to Kepler.

Kepler will build a UK supply chain for its future satellite constellation and a European sales operation based in the UK.

The company will also work with UK technology partners to develop innovative products and services using its satcom solution.

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Satellite Applications Catapult CEO Stuart Martin said: “Global connectivity is critical to innovation and economic growth.

“We need to address current gaps in service if we are to achieve our bold ambitions for a digital economy underpinned by the Internet of Things.”

“We need to address current gaps in service if we are to achieve our bold ambitions for a digital economy underpinned by the Internet of Things.  Kepler’s constellation addresses this challenge and their network provides a blank canvas on which UK companies will be able to build added value services.

“Kepler is committed to investing in the UK, and we are committed to growing this partnership and supporting them to accelerate the downstream service opportunities.”

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TARS represents the third and last prototype of the constellation after KIPP and CASE.

KIPP was launched in January to deliver proof-of-concept services for Kepler’s high-capacity data store-and-forward service, while CASE is scheduled to be launched this year to expand the company’s store-and-forward capacity.

TARS is expected to be sent into orbit next year with the aim of expanding the capabilities of KIPP and CASE, and will deliver narrow-band connectivity services for Internet of Things applications.

Kepler expects to start launching its new constellation of 140 low earth orbit communications satellites next year.