Astranis Aims at Internet Access for Under-Served Areas with Smallsats

San Francisco-based startup Astranis recently announced it has raised $18 million to provide broadband internet access from space using small satellites in geostationary orbit. The funding will go towards the development of smallsats that can each provide up to 10 gigabits per second of capacity. This novel satellite technology aims to transmit data down to specific terrestrial locations with each satellite it launches. It’s expected that they will provide internet access to under served areas more cost-effectively than traditional large geostationary satellites or constellations of low Earth orbit smallsats. Low Earth orbit smallsats orbit the earth every ninety minutes, meaning that in order to provide uninterrupted connectivity a network of hundreds of satellites would have to be in place to have a fully operational network. Astranis is planning to launch its satellites into geostationary orbit – farther from the earth and in a location that will remain fixed – which means its satellites can provide connectivity almost immediately after launch. A drawback of GEO broadband, however, is the issue of latency — a lag in transmission time that can amount to 120 milliseconds each way.

“We’ve taken a lot of these new approaches around small satellites and applied them to solve this problem in telecommunications,” said John Gedmark, chief executive of Astranis.

Each of the company’s smallsats will weigh 300 kilograms (660 pounds), and generate about two kilowatts of power. A key enabling technology is a digital payload developed by the company that provides design flexibility and enables lower costs.

“These satellites are tens of millions of dollars, as opposed to hundreds of millions — and that’s a game-changer,” said Gedmark.