Rush is on to Get Pseudo Satellites into Space

  • HAWK30 is a pseudo satellite and capable of providing internet service in remote areas.
  • The original technology started in the 1980s.
  • The commercial market launch is supposed to be in 2023.

Japanese company HAPSMobile successfully completed the second HAWK30 Solar HAPS test flight on October 23 from a NASA facility. The first flight was in the September. HAPSMobile plans to move the HAWK30 to the Hawaiian island of Lanai and is accelerating preparations to perform stratospheric test flights there by March 31, 2020 per their press release.

HAPSMobile is a subsidiary of SoftBank Corp. (TOKYO: 9434) and minority-owned by AeroVironment, Inc. (NASDAQ: AVAV), who is also an aircraft development partner for “HAWK30,” a solar-powered unmanned aircraft designed for stratospheric telecommunications platform systems that flies approximately 20kms into the stratosphere. The wing span of the HAWK30 is 78 meters.

The HAPSMobile has been developing HAWK30 since 2017. The main goal for the HAWK30 development is to provide communications on the islands. The HAWK30 will have cellular equipment, it will allow to work with ground terminals and regular smartphones. A diameter of the coverage will be 200 km.

The technology itself was pioneered by the AeroVironment high-altitude solar-powered UAS in the 1980s. In August 2001, the AeroVironment Helios prototype reached an altitude of 96,863 feet and set a world-record for sustained horizontal flight by a winged aircraft.

A SoftBank Corp subsidiary also invested $125 million earlier this year in an Alphabet, Inc company that is working to fly cell phone antennas high in the atmosphere to provide internet to remote locations.

The HAWK30 can be airborne for up to six months due to its lithium-ion batteries and additional solar panels used for a daytime charge.

The global and regionally harmonized designations for HAPS were discussed at the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-19), taking place from October 28 to November 22 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

HAWK30 Image Source: Maui news

US Based Sprint Corporation is an American telecommunications company that provides wireless services and is an internet service provider who will test a High Altitude Platform Stations (HAPS) communications system for six months. Sprint is planning to use 1.9GHz (PCS) and 2.5GHz spectrum, and aims to determine whether the HAPS system can maintain a stable link to its LTE network. The documents were filed with the FCC in July of this year.

In addition, a floating base station in the stratosphere is expected to provide drone delivered internet service by 2023. It is estimated 40 HAPS could cover the entire Japanese archipelago. Japan needs this system due to being prone to natural disasters and having a myriad of remote areas that require stable communications system during such events.

Overall, the opportunities are great for the technology on the global spectrum. Russia is also developing pseudo satellites. The companies involved are  RosAeroSystems and Lavochkin. China’s Aviation Industry Corp. is also testing its own HAPS pseudo satellite as well.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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