Skykraft has announced it has closed a funding round of $3.5 million with investors to deliver a global satellite constellation for space-based air traffic management.
The company’s goal is to provide tech that will lead to safer aircraft operations as space-based surveillance can provide broader coverage of the ground.
Skykraft will use the funding to design and launch the Block II validation satellites – 300-kilogram nine smallsats payload – in June 2022 onboard a SpaceX rocket.
The space services company will launch the satellite through SpaceX’s Rideshare Transporter-5 program which enables the launch of small objects into space for a lower price.
Investors backing the mission include Allan Moss, the former CEO of Macquarie Group, and Adcock Private Equity.
“Skykraft’s space-based solution allows real-time communications between air traffic controllers and pilots, allowing for the reduction in separation between aircraft over oceanic airspace, enhancing efficiency and delivering environmental benefits,” said Skykraft’s executive chairman, Air Vice Marshal (Ret’d) Mark Skidmore.
The landscape of air traffic management has taken a turn over the past few years as governments attempt to deal with the next generation of drones and electric aircraft infiltrating the skies.
According to the company, the smallsats will replace ground-based infrastructure with space-based systems for both surveillance and communication services.
Last year, Skykraft’s then-managing director, James Prior, said the planned constellation, which will eventually rise to 210, would be connected with satellites on the ground.
It will provide a boost to job creation and sovereign capabilities within the defence and government industries, says Skykraft.
“Skykraft has developed a leading technology with global relevance and unique attributes in surveillance and aviation communication services for the large air traffic management sector,” said Joe Capra, founding principal of Lennoxgrove Capital.
Capra said it will also allow pilots to choose more environmentally friendly flight paths through real-time updates and information.
The co-founders of the company, chief engineer Dr Doug Griffin and chief innovation officer Dr Craig Benson, have over two decades of satellite and aerospace experience, including being involved in NASA and RAAF missions.
The news comes only a year after Skykraft signed a memorandum of understanding with Airservices Australia in December 2020 to research this type of space-based infrastructure, to improve safety and reduce carbon footprint.