Kleos GeoInt surveillance satellites ready for NZ launch

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Kleos GeoInt surveillance satellites ready for NZ launch

Scouting Mission to unveil hidden maritime activity.

Satellite startup Kleos Space says it has completed all acceptance reviews and is ready for launch of its Scouting Mission, aimed at uncovering hidden maritime activity.

Four low-earth orbit nanosatellites form the initial constellation for the Kleos Scouting Mission, and they are on the way for launch from Rocket Lab's Complex 1 in Mahia, New Zealand.

The satellites, built by Gomspace of Denmark, will be used to gather geo-located intelligence for governments and commercial entities from space, Kleos hopes.

In total, 20 satellites will be built by Gomspace for the Kleos Scouting Mission, with Rocket Lab being contracted last year to launch them.

They don't rely on global positioning system (GPS) signals, and can be used when the Automatic Identification System (AIS) is unavailable, or when imagery is unclear or targets out of patrol range, the company said.

While the VHF AIS signals only reach 10-20 nautical miles at sea, the radio emissions can be spied upon from space.

The satellites will also scan for other VHF traffic in the 156-174 MHZ range, which could indicate illegal fishing, smuggling of drugs and people, and piracy activity if it's not accompanied by AIS call signs from the vessels in question.

Search and rescue operations at sea is another area that Kleos is aiming for with its data-gathering satellite service.

The company was founded just two years ago by Miles Ashcroft and Andy Bowyer who ran UK-based Magna Parva, which is a supplier to the European Space Agency ESA. 

Kleos Space is based in Luxembourg, but listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. It raised US$11 million in its initial public offering last year, but has not disclosed if it has any customers or revenue yet.

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