ELSE SA is planning a 64-satellite constellation of low-orbiting satellites to provide remote monitoring, asset tracking and predictive maintenance at costs the company claims are far lower than existing competitors. Credit: ELSE ELSE SA is planning a 64-satellite constellation of low-orbiting satellites to provide remote monitoring, asset tracking and predictive maintenance at costs the company claims are far lower than existing competitors. Credit: ELSE

 

PARIS — Mobile satellite communications provider Thuraya Telecommunications Co. has signed an agreement with a Swiss/U.S.-based startup that is developing a constellation of nanosatellites for low-cost machine-to-machine and Internet of Things connectivity.

With about 2 million euros ($2.10 million) in seed money from the European Space Agency, ELSE SA has one satellite under construction and planned for launch in 2018, to be followed by eight others in 2019 and ultimately a 64-satellite constellation in low Earth orbit by 2021.

ELSE’s management includes veterans of the first Swiss satellite, the 1-kilogram SwissCube-1, which was launched in 2009 into a 700-kilometer polar orbit. Its chief financial officer is Kjell Karlsen, the former CFO and CEO of commercial launch-service provider Sea Launch AG, which specialized in large, geostationary-orbit satellites.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates-based Thuraya provides voice and data services to customers in about 100 nations through its large geostationary-orbit spacecraft but has been weighing a strategic reorientation of the company as part of what Thuraya calls its FUTURA project.

The departure of long-serving Chief Executive Samer Halawi in March, who left Thuraya to join the OneWeb project, a constellation of satellites in low Earth orbit to provide global broadband connectivity, raised questions about Thuraya’s direction.

The April 12 announcement of an MoU with ELSE is Thuraya’s first answer.

“This agreement forms the foundation of an extensive framework and an exciting long-term collaboration towards providing a progressive platform for our partners to offer services beyond basic satellite connectivity,” Thuraya Chief Strategy Officer Jassem Nasser said in a statement.

“FUTURA, our future plan, encompasses three main pillars, one of which is “New Wave” services for M2M and IoT applications. Our alliance with ELSE serves as a building block for the development of this component of FUTURA,” Nasser said.

ELSE Co-Founder and CEO Fabien Jordan said would “benefit greatly from [Thuraya’s] technology and distribution reach and we are very excited about the possibilities this alliance will create.”

ELSE and Astrocast have been selected as one of 10 Swiss startups that will be touring China June 25-July 4 to talk with potential investors and partners.

Formed in 2015, the company traces its beginnings the Lausanne-based EPFL technical university, where SwissCube-1 was developed. The EPFL Innovation Park now acts as a business incubation center for high-tech companies.

ELSE and Thuraya did not immediately respond to requests for comment on how the two companies would complement each other with Thuraya’s current business and ELSE’s future Astrocast.

Jordan said Astrocast should be able to provide M2M/IoT services globally at rates that are 100 times lower than “the industry standard.” Current satellite-based M2M/IoT providers include Orbcomm, Iridium and Inmarsat.

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Peter B. de Selding
Peter B. de Selding
Peter de Selding is a Co-Founder and editor for SpaceIntelReport.com. He started SpaceIntelReport in 2017 after 26 years as the Paris Bureau Chief for SpaceNews where he covered the commercial satellite, launch and the international space businesses. He is widely considered the preeminent reporter in the space industry and is a must read for space executives. Follow Peter @pbdes