Astranis’ first Internet satellite over Alaska works “perfectly”
The Arcturus satellite is seen en route to geosynchronous orbit.
Astranis, a San Francisco-based company with an alternative approach to delivering internet access from satellites, has its first spacecraft in orbit and the company said on Wednesday it worked “perfectly”.
“We have a new way to connect people in some of the most remote and underserved areas of the world,” Astranis CEO John Gedmark told CNBC.
The company’s small, largely in-house built satellite named “Arcturus” launched on SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket earlier this month and recently arrived in orbit. Astranis has already completed testing with the satellite, including connecting to user equipment in its Alaska service target for the first time.
“This test validates everything we’ve worked on and are working on and it’s a huge, huge deal,” Gedmark said.
The Arcturus satellite is seen deploying its solar arrays in the background from the upper stage of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket.
Astranis is one of many next-generation broadband satellite systems being developed as companies race to meet growing global demand for data – including SpaceX’s Starlink, UK-owned OneWeb, from Amazon Kuiper Project, AST SpaceMobile and others.
But the company’s approach is the “third way” to delivering broadband service from space, Gedmark explained. The company’s dishwasher-sized satellite combines the small form factor of satellites like SpaceX’s Starlink in low Earth orbit with the deep, geosynchronous orbit of traditional players like viasat.
Geosynchronous orbit, or GEO, is about 22,000 miles from the planet’s surface — a position that allows the spacecraft to stay above a fixed location, matching the Earth’s rotation.
Arcturus is a fraction of the size and cost of traditional GEO satellites.
“We can build these satellites very quickly compared to what’s happened before,” Gedmark said.
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Astranis highlighted 13 major milestones reached for Arcturus in its press release. Gedmark stressed that the company is “incredibly proud” of the satellite’s performance so far, pushing back against both the “super harsh radiation environment” and the “extreme temperature range” experienced by GEO spacecraft.
Gedmark said Arcturus was running about 10-15% above spec, which translates to about 8.5 gigabits per second of total capacity. For users, Astranis expects its satellites to deliver download speeds of around 25 megabits per second.
Alaska Service Coming Soon
A “gateway” ground station at Eagle Mountain, Utah.
Arcturus is positioned above Alaska, where Astranis’ first customer – telecommunications provider Pacific Dataport – will use it to triple the data speeds available to users across the state. Gedmark noted that about 40% of Alaskans don’t have access to reliable high-speed internet, which “is a shocking number” that shows how “starved for satellite capacity” the state is.
“We cover the entire state, including most of the most remote islands in the Aleutian chain,” Gedmark said, adding that Arcturus “will enable hundreds of thousands of people to access true High-speed Internet”.
A large portion of Astranis’ target users are businesses – such as industrial companies, schools and hospitals – rather than individuals or individuals.
The company expects Arcturus to go live in mid-June after completing other verification steps.
Astranis employees cheer as they watch the launch at the company’s headquarters in San Francisco, California.
Astranis has raised over $350 million since its inception in 2015, at a valuation of over $1 billion, from investors including BlackRock, Fidelity, Andreessen Horowitz, Baillie Gifford and Venrock. The company has more than 300 employees.
As for raising additional funds, Gedmark said the company remains in “a strong cash position” and is currently focused on getting the service up and running as soon as possible, for “people who really need help.” Internet yesterday”.
Astranis has a demand pipeline worth more than $1 billion, representing orders for 10 satellites, over the next two years.
It plans to launch four more satellites later this year on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. One of those four is under an agreement with Latin American service provider Grupo Andesat, to provide satellites that would offer improved broadband access. to no less than 3 million people in Peru. Two more are for mobility-focused Anuvu, which provides services such as in-flight WiFi for Southwest Airlines, and the final satellite is for an unnamed commercial customer.
Gedmark has previously estimated the broadband demand market to be a $1 trillion global opportunity and noted that Astranis’ existing pipeline has contracts that have options for additional satellites.
“We’re ready to go out and deploy many of these satellites all over the world and help people connect,” Gedmark said.