Flavia Tata Nardini’s growing constellation of small satellites in low orbit in space is already having a significant impact on Earth.
Nardini was born and educated in Italy, where she obtained a master’s degree in space engineering. She moved to the South Australian capital of Adelaide to become a leader in the space industry through her company Fleet Space Technologies.
With a mission to “connect the earth, moon and stars and unleash the power of universal connectivity” with small satellites, Fleet Space was founded in 2015 and has grown into a company with a staff of 86 and a presence in United States.
“We want to create applications for this technology that create better outcomes for people on Earth and enable our exploration of worlds beyond,” says Nardini.
Fleet has already launched seven commercial satellites. He is currently working on a fully 3D-printed satellite, Alpha, as well as the rest of the company’s pioneering series of Centauri satellites.
In May 2022, Fleet launched its newest satellite, Centauri 5, via SpaceX. This satellite used 3D printed metal patch antennas. If the results prove successful, Fleet will use in-house 3D printing capabilities to 3D print metal patch antennas for the growing constellation.
Space technology still has terrestrial applications and Fleet has focused its expertise on the mining exploration industry. The company has developed a fast and scalable 3D exploration solution to identify critical high-value minerals and reduce unnecessary drilling, unveiling a service called ExoSphere.
ExoSphere technology scans the ground using an advanced seismic tomography technique called Ambient Noise Tomography (ANT), where highly transportable devices listen for low background vibrations from natural and man-made sources. The data is then quickly processed and transmitted from anywhere in the world via Fleet’s constellation of low Earth orbit satellites.
“We want to create applications for this technology that create better outcomes for people on Earth and enable our exploration of worlds beyond”
ExoSphere improves the precision of the drilling program by scanning a target area with advanced low-impact ground sensors – known as geodes – connected via the fleet’s low-power satellite network. The geodes are up to ten times more sensitive than existing nodal geophones, increasing the accuracy and depth of results. Geodes are hand-carryable by small teams on the surface.
Each battery-operated wireless geode contains a sophisticated processing unit, a satellite transmitter and a seismic sensor. Geodes partially process raw information on site, reducing the data needed for transmission.
Data from each geode is processed quickly and can provide a full 3D visualization of the subsurface down to 2.0 km depth. A clear, rich picture of the resources that may lie underground can be generated in as little as four days, and Fleet says the technology can accelerate the discovery of vital metals more than a hundred times.
Sustainability the goal
Flavia Tata Nardini says ExoSphere is in line with Fleet Space’s core mission, which includes sustainability.
“ExoSphere enables the global exploration industry to find faster, more efficient and more sustainable routes to critical minerals that will support the transition to clean air mobility,” she says.
“We achieve this by reducing the need for invasive drilling by scanning the ground and quickly processing the data through our constellation of satellites. Solving problems on this scale is central to Fleet’s purpose and mission.
Nardini says ExoSphere will play a vital role in the challenge of finding the more than $13 trillion in critical metals the world needs to meet growing global demand.
Contracts have been signed with more than 20 customers based in North America and Australia, including Core Lithium and Oz Minerals.
US company Talon Metals also became a customer in September, piloting ExoSphere on exploration projects in Minnesota and Michigan. Talon explores high-grade nickel deposits in the United States to supply the national battery supply chain with nickel and other battery materials needed for the energy transition.
“Fleet’s technology has the potential to deliver two tantalizing outcomes for geologists like our team of proven nickel hunters: speed and accuracy,” said Talon CEO Henri von Rooyen.
“Increased accuracy means less earth disruption compared to conventional exploration practices. Speed means a faster path to discovering the metallic minerals like nickel that society needs for the energy transition.
Not all Fleet apps are industry-based. From its home in South Australia, the company has partnered with South Australian water authorities to build a network of over 250 soil moisture and air temperature sensors across 17 parks .
These sensors used Fleet’s nanosatellite technology and the public network, providing real-time temperatures to the South Australian Water website, where the public could track the coolest places to visit, and local authorities could know the best time to water. .
With South Australia’s hot summer looming, residents may be able to take some relief from the heat thanks to the work of a world-leading local satellite company.
Lachlan Colquhoun is the Australian and New Zealand correspondent for CDOTrends and editor of NextGenConnectivity. He remains fascinated by how companies are reinventing themselves through digital technology to solve existing problems and change their entire business models. You can reach him at [email protected].
Photo credit: iStockphoto/RonFullHD