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March 12, 2024

Fleet Space’s Centauri Becomes Earth’s Smallest Voice-Capable Satellite After In-Orbit Software Update

Fleet Space Technologies, a leading Australian space exploration company, announced the successful demonstration of satellite-enabled Push-to-Talk (PTT) capabilities for the Australian Defence Force -  Joint Capabilities Group as part of their ASCEND2LEO program. This achievement signifies a major leap forward in tactical communications capabilities and underscores Fleet Space’s position on the forefront of satellite communications technology, as one of the few companies to demonstrate similar PTT capabilities via satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

"Our demonstration of PTT for the ASCEND2LEO program is the latest example of Fleet Space’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of innovation to meet the rapidly evolving and complex needs of the Australian Defence Force,” said Matt Pearson, Co-Founder & Chief Exploration Officer at Fleet Space. “By successfully delivering a software update to our Centauri satellite while in orbit, we are proud to be the developer and operator of the world’s smallest known voice-enabled satellite, creating new innovation pathways to advance new capabilities for the global space industry and beyond.”

The ASCEND2LEO program aims to develop and demonstrate a LEO satellite communications system leveraging Fleet Space’s next-gen Centauri satellites to deliver tactical voice and data transmission where connectivity is limited. Built with the world’s first 3D printed all-metal patch antennas and advanced Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs), this demonstration showed that Centauri satellites can be re-programmed to deliver high-quality, fit-for-purpose voice capabilities while in orbit. Following from the AUD$6.4 million contract Fleet Space was awarded by the Defence Space Command last year, this milestone opens a path to a future enabled by secure, reliable, instantaneous communications across vast distances using highly-advanced microsatellite architectures.

During the live demonstration, hosted by the Defence Science & Technology Group (DSTG), Fleet Space’s PTT capabilities achieved remarkable performance according to a strict criterion for one-way voice transmission including voice quality, reliability, and link persistence across thousands of kilometres in manifold operational environments. SmartSat CRC and Safety from Space supported Fleet Space by adapting a communications waveform, developed under a previous SmartSat funded project, which was implemented on the Centauri 4 satellite for this demonstration. With these results, Fleet Space has demonstrated the ability of its satellites to support critical missions and enable the development of a resilient space infrastructure for Australia and its allies around the world.

“Enabling an entirely new voice capability for a satellite that is already in orbit is a tremendous technical accomplishment,” said Peter Kerr, Defence & National Security Coordinator at SmartSat CRC. “With this proof of concept, SmartSat is playing a critical role in helping Australian industry develop SATCOM resiliency for Defence and validate the Regenerative Voice System architecture which is a powerful and ambitious approach undertaken by the ASCEND2LEO program.”

Fleet Space’s successful display of PTT capabilities expands new technology pathways and opportunities for further innovation. Marking a significant step forward for Australia’s space industry, Fleet Space’s Centauri satellite is now the smallest voice-capable satellite on Earth and offers a scalable solution for future tactical and strategic needs of defence and the global space sector.

Reprogrammable by design, voice capabilities for Fleet Space’s Centauri satellite were enabled via software update, establishing a proof of concept for the Regenerative Voice System architecture underlying the ASCEND2LEO program. As a result, this demonstration validated the ability of highly-adaptable microsatellite constellations to rapidly deliver purpose-built, high-quality SATCOM capabilities at scale to meet complex needs in diverse scenarios.

“Custom waveforms are a critical part of enabling high-performing satellite capabilities,” said Founder of Safety From Space, Dr. Mark Rice. “We’re excited to continue working with partners to help build secure and resilient satellite-based solutions in support of the ambitious objectives of the Australian private and public sectors.”

Fleet Space’s technology is also being used to push the boundaries of lunar exploration. In 2026, a variant of Fleet Space’s ExoSphere solution, called SPIDER, will land on the Moon’s surface aboard Firefly Aerospace’s Blue Ghost lander as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative. SPIDER’s deployment will help to unlock geological insights about the lunar regolith and search for water ice deposits - making SPIDER the first Australian seismic technology to land on the Moon.

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About Fleet Space Technologies

Fleet Space Technologies is Australia’s leading space exploration company revolutionising critical mineral discovery, space technologies, and defence with its satellite-enabled solutions and seismic array technology (Exosphere by Fleet®). Headquartered at the national centre of Australia’s space industry in Adelaide, Fleet has expanded its global footprint to the US, Canada, Chile, and Luxembourg with over 120+ employees, representing 37 nationalities, worldwide. In 2023, Fleet Space was named “Australia’s Fastest Growing Company” by the Australian Financial Review.

About the SmartSat CRC

The SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre brings together over 135 participating organisations, including national and international partners, with more than 400 researchers. With a portfolio of over 150 R&D projects across Advanced Communication, Connectivity and IoT Technologies, Advanced Satellite Systems, Sensors and Intelligence, and Next Generation Earth Observation Data Services, SmartSat continues to contribute to building Australia’s space R&D capability. Find out more at www.smartsatcrc.com.

About Safety From Space

Safety from Space is a supplier of satellite communications and signal analysis technology to space and ground systems, enabling assured exchange of safety critical data in remote and hazardous environments.

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