Microsoft and Spain's FOSSA team up to apply IoT technology globally

One of its 17 satellites has been used by the US technology giant to evaluate future applications for the Internet of Things 
Los dos fundadores y responsables de la compañía española son Julián Fernández (izquierda), de 21 años, y Vicente González, de 29, que muestran las dos líneas de modelos de sus satélites - PHOTO/JPons
The two founders and heads of the Spanish company are Julián Fernández (left), 21, and Vicente González, 29, showing the two model lines of their satellites - PHOTO/JPONS
  1. Testbed for Microsoft
  2. 2024 and 2025 will be pivotal years

The Spanish space company FOSSA Systems has just revealed what has been its best-kept secret for 22 months. It has designed, manufactured, launched and maintained in service for the past 22 months a satellite in cooperation with global technology giant Microsoft. 

Small in size and weighing 600 grams at take-off, the so-called MsrSat-1 was launched into orbit in May 2022 from the United States on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket under the strictest confidentiality rules agreed between the two entities.

A pioneer in Internet of Things (IoT) applications, FOSSA has attracted the interest of US multinational Microsoft. Its IoT innovations provide connectivity to objects at very low speed and latency over a wide variety of devices equipped with, for example, accelerometers, temperature and humidity sensors, microphones... 

FOSSA reached an agreement in 2021 with Microsoft Research, the Research and Development division of the company founded by Bill Gates. The two companies agreed that the focus of testing onboard MsrSat-1 would be to explore the development, scalability and various applications of satellite IoT for global connectivity. 

El MsrSat-1 en pleno proceso de fabricación. De pequeñas dimensiones y 600 gramos de peso, fue puesto en órbita en mayo de 2022 - PHOTO/Fossa Systems
The MsrSat-1 in the middle of the manufacturing process. Small in size and weighing 600 grams, it was launched into orbit in May 2022 - PHOTO/Fossa Systems

Testbed for Microsoft

The satellite and the ground devices that make up the system as a whole have provided Microsoft with a platform to evaluate the possibilities of IoT. "We have provided Microsoft with a real testbed equipped with LoRA wireless modulation, which offers long range and secure low-power data transmission," confirms Julián Fernández, CEO of FOSSA and co-founder of the company.

The satellite was put into orbit at an altitude of 550 kilometres so that Microsoft Research engineers could test and investigate the potential of low-power IoT connectivity, "a technology in which FOSSA specialises," says Vicente González, co-founder of FOSSA. 

FOSSA está especializada en sacar el máximo partido de las potencialidades que ofrece la conectividad IoT de baja potencia - PHOTO/JPons
FOSSA specialises in harnessing the potential of low-power IoT connectivity - PHOTO/JPons

The multinational's technicians have seen for themselves the applications that can be deduced and developed for use, for example, in digital agriculture on a global scale. This is an area of activity in which Microsoft Research's General Manager of Industry Research, Professor Ranveer Chandra - a recognised specialist in applying digitalisation to the agricultural field - wants to combine "new communication protocols, spectrum sharing and space-based computing".

Throughout the MsrSat-1 mission, numerous different tests and deployments of ground-based devices have been carried out and "our technology has performed optimally," says Vicente González. Microsoft will present the results at the 21st USENIX NSDI Symposium, an international forum dedicated to the design and implementation of networked systems, to be held in mid-April in Santa Clara, California. It is not unlikely that Bill Gates' company will make a major announcement about its ties to FOSSA and the IoT. 

Los satélites planos y desplegables de FOSSA guardan cierta semejanza exterior con los Starlink de Elon Musk, pero su tecnología es completamente diferente - PHOTO/Fossa Systems
FOSSA's flat, deployable satellites bear some outward resemblance to Elon Musk's Starlink, but their technology is completely different - PHOTO/Fossa Systems

2024 and 2025 will be pivotal years

From the perspective of what is being called New Space, the new methodology linked to the space industry, FOSSA Systems is a company whose two founding partners, Julián Fernández - 21 years old and about to graduate as a telecommunications engineer - and Vicente González, 29, an aeronautical engineer, describe themselves as "dynamic, agile and with a different mentality". 

These are not mere words, as FOSSA can prove that since 2022 it has designed, manufactured and put into orbit a total of 17 complete satellites - 13 in 2022 and four in 2023 - more than any other company in the traditional national space sector. A sector in which the satellite communications operator Hispasat and the government services operator Hisdesat lead the way in Spain.  

Hasta la fecha ha puesto en órbita con éxito un total de 17 satélites completos, 13 en 2022 y cuatro en 2023. En el segundo semestre de 2024 continuarán los lanzamientos - PHOTO/Fossa Systems
To date it has successfully launched a total of 17 complete satellites into orbit, 13 in 2022 and four in 2023. Launches will continue in the second half of 2024 - PHOTO/Fossa Systems

FOSSA plans to launch at least four of its satellites in the second half of this year. This will kick-start the deployment of its planned constellation of 80 nano-satellites. But "the vast majority will be launched in 2025," says Julián Fernández, and all will be positioned in low orbit at an altitude of 550 kilometres. 

The as-yet-unnamed constellation aims to provide global coverage for the energy, oil, gas, logistics and security sectors. FOSSA already has customers in Europe as well as in Japan, the United States and Canada. The company is expanding rapidly and in February opened a subsidiary in Portugal dedicated to research, development and innovation in the space industry, aeronautics, telecommunications and satellite connectivity applied to IoT.