San Francisco-based startup Astranis is venturing into space with an $18 million project led by Andreessen Horowitz to build a commercial telecommunications satellite for broadband internet connectivity, reported VentureBeat.
Co-founded in 2015, by Purdue and MIT rocket scientists John Gedmark and Ryan McLinko, Astranis says it’s using proprietary software to build smaller, lower-cost telecommunications satellites to bring broadband to the most remote places on Earth. “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,” wrote Astranis CEO John Gedmark, in an email to VentureBeat.
Astranis says its satellites are different from those to be used by other companies planning to deliver broadband connectivity from space, because these satellites will fly in in geostationary orbit (GEO), where the satellite is fixed above a specific point on Earth. Conversely, other micro-satellite companies work in low earth orbit (LEO), according to the company.
Gedmark added, “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.”
Gedmark also commented on the advantages the project could bring to the telecommunications industry, “Cell towers can be relatively cheap to build and install, but solving the problem of connecting those cell towers to the internet is currently difficult and expensive. By providing lower-cost satellite bandwidth for telcos and carriers to lease, they can circumvent tower coverage and get people online in places they never would have been able to … otherwise.”
Astranis manufactures its satellites in San Francisco and expects to launch its first commercial satellite in 2019, with a price tag in the tens of millions. Potential customers include telecommunication companies and carriers, especially in emerging markets.
March 9, 2018