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Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) announces launch of two satellites

(8 October 2020 - Space Flight Laboratory) Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) has announced the launch of the Kepler-4 and Kepler-5 CubeSats.

These two satellites, benefit from the extensive flight heritage possessed by SFL. Additionally, SFL played an instrumental role in the development of the production workflow at Kepler that will enable Kepler to produce additional satellites to deliver the GEN1 constellation.

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Two Kepler satellites launch on Sept. 28, 2020. (courtesy: Roscosmos.)

“The successful development and launch of the Kepler-4 and -5 communications satellites mark a new chapter in the collaboration between microspace and newspace organizations,” said SFL Director Dr. Robert E. Zee. “For its newspace endeavor, Kepler has utilized our two decades of microspace design and development expertise and then leveraged this for cost-effective in-house mass production.”

The two 6U-XL CubeSats were launched September 28, 2020, aboard a Soyuz-Fregat launch vehicle from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia. Within hours of launch, both satellites were in communication with Kepler ground control and were functioning as planned.

“Leveraging SFL’s experience we have a high degree of confidence in the performance of these satellites. This will pave the way towards our GEN1 constellation and future spacecraft in our network,” said Director of Space Systems, Jared Bottoms.

Kepler-4 and -5 are the first service-focused CubeSats in Kepler Communications’ constellation that will ultimately include 140 satellites. SFL developed Kepler-4 in concert with Kepler, which is based on SFL’s new SPARTAN 6U-XL CubeSat design, with mass production in mind. As Kepler-4 was in production, SFL personnel provided training and technical support to Kepler in creating the manufacturing workflow capable of assembling and integrating the additional satellites at a 5,000-square-foot facility adjacent to Kepler headquarters in Toronto.

“We designed our SPARTAN 6U-XL bus – along with two other new CubeSat platforms – to cost effectively meet the reliability, performance and capability demands of fully commercial operations,” said SFL’s Zee.

Established in 1998, SFL has designed and built 52 distinct nano- and microsatellites with 24 under construction and nearing launch and another 28 launched (23 of which are still operational), totaling over 128 cumulative years of successful operation in orbit. Many of these microspace missions have included SFL’s trusted attitude control and formation-flying technologies.

About Space Flight Laboratory

SFL generates bigger returns from smaller, lower cost satellites. Small satellites built by SFL consistently push the performance envelope and disrupt the traditional cost paradigm. Satellites are built with advanced power systems, stringent attitude control and high-volume data capacity that are striking relative to the budget. SFL arranges launches globally and maintains a mission control center accessing ground stations worldwide. The pioneering and barrier-breaking work of SFL is a key enabler to tomorrow’s cost aggressive satellite constellations.