Lacuna launches fourth IoT satellite into space

  • November 11, 2020
  • Steve Rogerson

Lacuna Space has launched and is communicating with its fourth IoT gateway in space. The satellite was transported to equatorial low Earth orbit on board the PSLV-C49 mission from India this month.

The mission will cover a geographic band around the entire globe between the 40th parallels north and south, stretching from Madrid down to Cape Town.

“We are continuing to push the boundaries of what’s technically possible with extremely low power IoT technology with each generation of IoT gateways we are putting into space,” said Rob Spurrett, CEO of UK-based Lacuna Space. “This latest one offers higher sensitivity and capacity for message reception from LoRaWan devices. It also allows us to better cover regions around the equator offering more opportunities for our technology partners and IoT services providers across South America, Africa and south-east Asia.”

One of Lacuna’s early partners has been Bali and Singapore-based Sustainability Tech, a technology developer that focuses on tropical forest ecosystems in south-east Asia.

Sustainability Tech is working with Lacuna Space to produce satellite-connected sensors that monitor wetland hydrology. These enable a variety of companies, from commercial plantation managers to conservation projects such as peatland restoration, to monitor fire risk and water levels from any internet-connected device.

Peatland ecosystems, a type of wetlands, are home to some of the world’s rarest and unique species and store more carbon than all other vegetation types in the world combined.

With over 140,000km2, Indonesia has some of the largest peatlands globally. Degradation from commercial development has turned them into a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions – globally they account for six per cent of anthropogenic CO2 emissions – and led to increased fires and haze. The damage poses enormous climate risk and negatively affects the health of rural people and local economies. Peatland restoration can significantly reduce these emissions.

“The Lacuna satellite connection allows our clients to monitor their peatland restoration impact in harsh environments with more reliable uptime and lower costs compared with first generation systems,” said Josh Van Vianen, managing director of Sustainability Tech. “This is exactly the type of technology needed to massively scale up the climate solutions necessary to protect our planet from further warming.”

By partnering with Lacuna, Sustainability Tech is improving its sensor suite and enabling clients to monitor and manage large areas with access to better data. Low orbit satellites improve coverage for these sensor networks and reduce costs for clients, which include conservation and climate mitigation projects, researchers and agribusiness that need real-time management tools.

Another partner is Interco Cloud, an IT integrator based in Colombia, that Lacuna Space has been working with to develop forest monitoring services across Latin America. Together they also enable governments in the region to monitor electricity generation from solar farms in the remote regions, where other networks become cost prohibitive.

“The low availability of land connectivity, especially in the jungle tropics, hinders the viability of these projects,” said Nelson Velandia, CEO of Interco Cloud. “Lacuna Space is a strategic partner to integrate these types of solutions, where short messages are needed, making the project viable. This new satellite in equatorial orbit will also allow us to better advance such projects.”

The satellite platform and early operations have been supplied by nanosatellite integrator NanoAvionics. Other key equipment was provided by Oxford Space Systems and Parametric in Switzerland. Service commissioning – the on-orbit checkout period – is underway and telemetry data are already flowing back. The mission is expected to enter full service before the end of the year.

Lacuna Space, located in the UK and Netherlands, provides global connections to sensors and mobile equipment. The company provides a low-power tracking and connectivity service for short data messaging based on open source LPWAN protocols. The service works everywhere, enabling companies to gather data from remote sensors or tracking the status of moving assets.