A consortium of Japanese businesses led by NTT Docomo and Space Compass – a joint venture between Japan’s NTT and Sky Perfect Jsat – together with Mizuho Bank and the Development Bank of Japan, has committed to invest USD 100 million in Aalto, which manufactures and operates the stratospheric, solar-powered Zephyr High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS). The investment will be made through the Japanese consortium’s investment vehicle, HAPS Japan Corporation. This investment marks the beginning of a strategic alliance to commercialise connectivity and earth observation services using HAPS in Japan and across Asia. In March, NTT emerged as the likely first adopter of Aalto’s HAPS aircraft.

The consortium will also support the industrial and commercial roadmap for Aalto’s services, targeting launch in Japan and a global entry-into-service in 2026. Flying for months at a time in the stratosphere, Zephyr offers “game-changing capabilities” that the companies say will be transformative for mobile connectivity and earth observation. As a payload agnostic platform, Zephyr can transform into a “multi-functional tower in the sky” to provide low latency 5G direct-to-device mobile connectivity services. Leveraging Airbus’s earth observation service, Strat-Observer, Zephyr can also be used to fulfil a range of monitoring, tracking, sensing and detection applications.

Aalto can therefore be used for a variety of use cases, such as expanding mobile network operator coverage and providing high-capacity connectivity including during Japan’s response to natural disasters. This investment deepens the long-standing collaboration between Aalto, NTT Docomo and Space Compass. The roadmap to commercialise HAPS began with an agreement to explore collaboration with Aalto signed in 2022. Alongside this investment, Aalto and Space Compass will also sign commercial agreements that will deepen their engagement in Japan and Asia over the coming years. Airbus Defence and Space will remain Aalto’s majority shareholder. The investment is subject to closing conditions and regulatory approvals.

Aalto chief executive Samer Halawi said the investment comes as Aalto moves into its next phase of development. This includes launching several customer missions over the coming year, establishing launch and landing sites for Zephyr, and advancing its certification process. 

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