French satellite startup Kinéis gets regulatory nod for U.S. expansion


TAMPA, Fla. — French startup Kinéis secured regulatory approval Nov. 18 to connect internet of things devices in the United States to its planned nanosatellite constellation. 

The permission from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to provide services in the country marks a key milestone for Kinéis, which raised about $110 million last year to deploy 25 satellites to low Earth orbit (LEO) in 2023.

The satellites, which Rocket Lab has been contracted to launch, will replace a system of seven payloads hosted aboard U.S. and European weather satellies and one experimental cubesat that has been generating revenue for Kinéis.

The legacy system, called Argos and established as a French-U.S. undertaking involving NASA, NOAA and the French space agency CNES, collects humidity, sea level and other one-way data points from maritime beacons. However, Kinéis’ satellites aim to provide more dynamic services through a two-way connectivity system.

Kinéis was spun off in 2018 from French maritime and environmental monitoring company CLS (Collecte Localisation Satellites), which had previously managed the Argos network, to upgrade it with a constellation of nanosatellites in LEO.

Following the FCC’s approval, Kinéis said it plans to open up a subsidiary in Washington early next year to give it more access to global connectivity customers in environment, energy, transportation, agriculture and other markets.

Kinéis said it generated 7 million euros ($8 million) in revenues in 2020, a 40% increase on 2019.

CLS and CNES invested in the startup’s 2020 funding round, which also included French export-import bank Bpifrance and industrial partners Thales Group, cubesat builder Hemeria and software engineering firm Celad.

The European Investment Bank and the French National Institute for Ocean Science (Ifremer) were also among the participants.

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