NTT DOCOMO and Space Compass commit $100m to HAPS specialist AALTO


The investment will support the planned commercial launch of AALTO’s High Altitude Platform Station, Zephyr, in 2026

This week, a consortium including two Japanese banks, mobile operator NTT DOCOMO, and non-terrestrial network (NTN) specialist Space Compass Corporation, have announced an investment of $100 million into HAPS developer AALTO.

The investment, the companies say, will help support the industrial ad commercial roadmap for delivering AALTO’s services to customers, including a commercial launch in 2026.

AALTO, a division of aviation giant Airbus until being spun off at the start of last year, has been working on its HAPS technology, dubbed Zephyr, since 2001. The solution is essentially a large solar-powered stratospheric glider that can be equipped with mobile network technology, allowing connectivity, including 5G, to be rapidly delivered to remote locations.

In addition to telecommunications equipment, Zephyr can also carry other payloads, including imaging technology, such as Airbus’s Strat-Observer solution, allowing “a range of monitoring, tracking, sensing, and detection” capabilities.

Zephyr’s current record for continuous flight is 64 days, but the company hopes that this can be extended to over 200 days in future.

Combining all these features makes Zephyr ideal for rapid response scenarios, such as natural disasters.

“This is a landmark investment for AALTO. It is the natural next step in the roadmap of the Company’s targeted entry-into-service in 2026, as we industrialise and commercialise our technology. With world leaders in aviation and connectivity as shareholders, AALTO now has the combination of technological expertise and global reach to capitalise on the growth opportunities in substantial total addressable markets across connectivity and earth observation,” said AALTO CEO Samer Halawi.

“This 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 our certification process. We are excited to forge a new frontier in sustainable connectivity and earth observation from the stratosphere, while generating significant value for all our stakeholders.”

The investment by the Japanese consortium will be made by their purpose-built investment vehicle, HAPS JAPAN Corporation.

The deal builds on a longstanding relationship between AALTO, NTT DOCOMO, and Space Compass, which first agreed to explore collaboration possibilities back in 2022.

Space Compass itself is a joint venture between NTT and SKY Perfect JSAT, focussing on developing a Space Integrated Computing Network. Part of this process includes the development of direct-to-device mobile services using HAPS, for which it is once again partnered with NTT DOCOMO, NTT, and SKY Perfect JSAT.

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