OQ Technology’s narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) constellation is scheduled to resume launches on October 4th. After a failed launch last year, Arianespace has moved the Luxembourg venture to its next Vega mission, instead of using an upgraded version of the rocket. The original plan was to launch OQ Technology’s MACSAT (MAChine SATellite) in March on a Vega C rocket. However, the Vega C has not flown since a second-stage malfunction during a December 2022 launch that destroyed two imaging satellites.
Although Europe aimed to return the Vega C to flight by the end of 2023, another malfunction during a static-fire test pushed the return to service into 2024. The failure of the last Vega C launch was attributed to a component called a throat insert, provided by Yuzhnoye of Ukraine, which eroded during the launch. The original Vega rocket, which will now be used for the OQ Technology launch, uses a different motor in its second stage that does not have a throat insert from Yuzhnoye.
Instead of waiting for the Vega C, MACSAT will join 11 other satellites on one of the last two remaining original versions of the Vega rocket. The primary payload for this mission is THEOS-2 (THailand Earth Observation System-2), with Taiwan’s Formosat-7 meteorological satellite as the secondary passenger.
MACSAT, like the existing satellites from OQ Technology, is a 6U cubesat that provides low-bandwidth connectivity for off-the-grid tracking and monitoring devices. The company has four additional 6U satellites on order, scheduled to launch early next year through SpaceX Falcon 9 Transporter rideshare missions. Two of these satellites will also use satellite platforms from Lithuania’s NanoAvionics, while the remaining two are contracted to Denmark-based Space Inventor.
OQ Technology’s constellation currently offers device communication every 6 to 8 hours a day, depending on the region. However, with plans to operate 10 satellites next year, the company aims to provide connectivity every 2 to 4 hours. This increased frequency would enable more applications in the logistics, energy, utilities, and maritime markets, which are the sectors where OQ Technology sees the highest demand.
Notable companies such as Saudi Aramco, an oil and gas giant, have invested in OQ Technology and are among its largest customers. In the growing market for connecting Internet of Things devices from space, both startups and established satellite operators like EchoStar and SpaceX are also seeking to expand their market share.