Astranis just unveiled its plans to provide Internet access to billions of people worldwide using satellite technology.
Astranis Space Technologies, the San Francisco-based startup, announced yesterday its plan to give billions of people access to the Internet through its satellite technology. The announcement came nearly two weeks after Elon Musk‘s SpaceX launched its two test satellites for the Starlink Internet Project.
Apparently, with Astranis joining the race to provide the world with better connectivity, SpaceX and OneWeb now face tighter competition.
The startup just secured a $13.5 million Series A round investment led by Andreessen Horowitz and other venture capital firms like Y Combinator, Fifty Years, Refactor Capital, and Indicator Fund.
According to reports, Astranis will be using a different approach from SpaceX and OneWeb when it comes to transmitting data here on Earth. Instead of launching satellites into low-Earth orbit, the company is planning to have its satellites in geostationary orbit.
Meaning, Astranis’ satellites will remain in fixed positions and will be able to provide connectivity almost immediately after launch.
Astranis’ Satellite Technology
Astranis was co-founded in 2015 by rocket scientists John Gedmark and Ryan McLinko. According to the duo, their satellite technology uses smaller, lower-cost telecommunications space capsules capable of bringing Internet connectivity even to the most remote places here on our planet.
“Our satellites are about the size of a mini-fridge, much smaller than the double-decker bus-sized satellites that are traditionally used for telecommunications,” Gedmark, the CEO of Astranis, wrote in an email to VentureBeat.
The Astranis satellites will be placed in geostationary orbit (GEO), fixing them above specific points on Earth.
“Other micro-satellites companies are all working on low earth orbit (LEO), where satellites rotate around the Earth every 90 minutes,” Gedmark further explained. “If you want to provide internet access in LEO, you need hundreds or thousands of satellites to ensure complete coverage. In GEO, we can get people connected with the first satellite we launch.”
This approach will supposedly allow the Astranis satellites, which will weigh 300 kg each, to cover broader geographic areas. The first prototype was launched in January this year and the company confirmed that it has already successfully demonstrated broadband and HD video streaming functionality.
“You have to have hundreds of satellites up before you can be operational in low earth orbit,” says Gedmark. “This is a more direct path.”
Furthermore, Astranis’ satellite technology employs software-defined radio instead of the usual analog radio. This gives the satellite the capability to process digital signals and increase its throughput and performance. Aside from that, it also offers Astranis the flexibility to use different frequency bands rather than have them hardwired.
The company is currently manufacturing its satellites in San Francisco and is hoping to launch their first commercial satellite next year. Each satellite reportedly costs tens of millions of dollars. The company’s first customers will be satellite operators who are already using satellite bandwidth for Internet services.
“We have all the pieces in place now,” said Gedmark. “We have the funding, we have an incredible team of talented engineers, we have the technological progress, and we have a long list of customers. We’re open for business and ready to get this off the ground.”