These first four satellites of what’s termed the Scounting Mission will form the basis of an eventual constellation of 20 providing global radio frequency reconnaissance.
Kleos chief executive Andy Bowyer told US website SpaceNews that Kleos would focus on different parts of the radio frequency spectrum, how they were being used and what could be done with that information.
“Radio frequency is an untapped resource. Most companies are focused on imagery and weather data. We want to deliver a very good dataset in this domain,” he said.
Kleos plans to launch four eight-kilogram CubeSats into low-Earth orbit as the primary payload aboard a Rocket Lab Electron launch vehicle, fired from its New Zealand launch facility.
Kleos satellites have been constructed by Danish satellite maker GomSpace. Once in orbit, the four members of the Scouting Mission will form a loose formation and begin monitoring the radio frequency spectrum, providing daily observations.
Kleos is based in Luxembourg and listed on the Australian Securities Exchange in August last year, raising $11 million to fund its operations.
The company plans a global constellation of 20 small satellites able to geo-locate maritime radio transmissions.
That allows accurate location of vessels in distress, as well as those not broadcasting automatic identification system (AIS) signals. AIS is the maritime version of aircraft transponder identification systems.
Geo-location data from VHF radio transmissions from vessels not identifying themselves by AIS can be used a to cue a closer examination by other assets such as ships or aircraft.
Kleos said that would allow governments and organisations to detect activity such as drug and people smuggling, illegal fishing and piracy. Government agencies can use that information to enhance border and maritime security and safety.
Bowyer said that once the initial four satellites are operating and bringing in revenue, Kleos plans to launch additional satellite clusters to provide more frequent observations.
Kleos doesn’t have this niche market all to itself. US start-up Hawkeye 360 also tracks radio signals from space. It launched its first three satellites last December and is now marketing its services.