Aurora Perception launches Cubesats for RF detection

SAN FRANCISCO – Aurora Insight, a Denver-based startup that gathers terrestrial and satellite communications data, plans to launch the first of two Cubesats on the SpaceX Falcon 9 ridesharing, scheduled to launch January 22nd.

The satellite manufacturer NanoAvionics built the six Cubesats Bravo and Charlie and integrated them into Aurora Insight sensors.

“We have sensors in fixed locations such as buildings and vehicles, airplanes and satellites,” Jennifer Alvarez, CEO of Aurora Insight, told SpaceNews. “We’re continuously taking trillions of measurements that we process in the cloud. From this we gain valuable information about the RF spectrum and the networks based on it. “

Aurora Insight sells the data and analytics to customers including wireless carriers, tower owners, telecommunications equipment manufacturers, and government agencies. For example, the company creates maps that show the availability of radio frequency spectrum and wireless infrastructure and that measure 5G, LTE, Internet of Things, 3G, 2G, Wi-Fi and TV signals.

Founded in 2016, Aurora Insight launched its first satellite in 2018, a technology demonstration designed to determine how well the company’s own sensor can detect terrestrial communications.

“With cellular base stations like LTE, the antennas are tilted towards the ground to maximize signal usage and coverage,” said Alvarez. “The biggest challenge is getting enough signal in space to capture the RF signal and provide analysis.”

When that first technology demonstration was successful, Aurora Insight hired NanoAvionics to build Bravo and Charlie. Bravo was expected to launch first but is now scheduled to launch in a couple of months.

“Our Bravo and Charlie satellites have significantly more capabilities,” said Alvarez. “You will unlock new information about the radio spectrum and the networks based on it.”

Aurora Insight plans to set up a constellation of 12 satellites to provide global coverage.

“We are striving to achieve this global reach and reach hard-to-monitor places like developing countries,” Alvarez said.

In addition to building the satellites on the basis of the standard M6P bus, NanoAvionics was commissioned to start and operate the satellite.

“We are here to help Aurora Insight get its instruments into space cost effectively and complete its business case,” said Brent Abbott, US CEO of NanoAvionics.

NanoAvionics and Aurora Insight started their collaboration in January 2020.

Aurora Insight executives took a trip to NanoAvionics’ headquarters in Lithuania before the COVID-19 pandemic halted the trip.

Still, the companies were able to work remotely to integrate the Aurora Insight payload into the NanoAvionics bus.

“It was seamless,” said Alvarez.

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