From high fashion to low-earth-orbit in less than 100 years

In this episode, Nick and Brendan chat with Sarah McKenzie-Picot, Space Systems Designer & Assembly, Integration & Test Lead, and Diane Burchett, the Vice-President, Engineering at Kepler Communications Inc. The company was founded in 2015 by two University of Toronto graduate students. Today, the company works out of a building that was once used to make clothing. Now, it’s used to make satellites.

Kepler’s satellites communicate with the Earth (and each other) using an array, or ‘constellation,’ of satellites (19 currently). Since one satellite in the constellation will always be in range of a ground station, it allows for continuous, real-time communication and monitoring of the satellite network. To do this effectively, Kepler has had to build satellites that can transmit more data faster and more reliably than ever before. (Some of it involves lasers!)

Not unlike other companies working in advanced manufacturing sectors (like medical manufacturing), Kepler has successfully attracted a diverse range of young people to their ranks. Diane credits much of their success to their location in downtown Toronto, proximity to the University of Toronto, and the (out of this world) nature of the work they do (the things they make will go into space).

Thanks to companies like Kepler, you’ll soon be able to enjoy this podcast from orbit. Have a listen.


00:00-03:04 – Intro
03:05-03:35 – Meeting the guests
03:36-06:29 – Kepler’s founding & the history of their building – from suits to satellites in 100 years
06:30-10:43 – “What do your satellites do?” – or “The Kepler constellation of Satellites”
10:44-13:35 – Kepler’s capabilities and resources on Spadina
13:36-14:57 – Diane’s professional journey to Kepler and the rise of boutique satellite manufacturing
14:58-17:55 – Discussing the ‘Space Market’ and the growth of the Earth Observation industry
17:56-20:02 – Discussing Kepler’s youthful/diverse staff – Not an accident
20:03-25:38 – Diane & Sarah expand on their journeys to Kepler…
25:39-27:50 – …and the lack of obstacles they faced as women compared to other sectors
27:51-29:51 – Getting to orbit
29:52-31:48 – How have satellites evolved since Sputnik?
31:49-34:43 – How satellites keep cool in space and the environment they have to operate in
34:44-39:26 – Sarah discusses attitude control, optical links between satellites, & reaction wheels
39:27-40:51 – Discussing ‘Unbounded Connectivity’
40:52-43:49 – What are Sarah and Diane looking forward to most in 2023?
43:50-45:52 – It was a busy pandemic for Kepler – 8 spacecraft in 2 months