Wed. May 29th, 2024

Big Astranis Satellites Beefing Up Their Game in the GEO Broadband Scene

Emily Hudson By Emily Hudson May15,2024

TAMPA, Fla. — Astranis announced plans April 10 to deploy 50% larger broadband satellites from 2026 to offer five times more throughput, while still remaining far smaller than typical geostationary spacecraft to save costs.

CEO John Gedmark said Omega is designed to provide more than 50 gigabits per second of throughput, compared with 10-12 Gbps for each of the nine satellites customers have ordered for launch over the next two years.

Omega has slightly more mass than these dishwasher-sized 400-kilogram satellites, Gedmark told SpaceNews in an interview, and comes in at around 600 kilograms.

Traditional broadband satellites weighing thousands of kilograms can reach the size of a school bus, giving them more room for transponders and power. 

Each satellite in Viasat’s next-generation constellation, for instance, is roughly 6,000 kilograms and designed to provide 1,000 Gbps of throughput — although the first Viasat-3 suffered an issue that reduced this capacity by more than 90%.

Similar to the small geostationary satellites Switzerland’s Swissto12 is developing, Astranis spacecraft are scaled to provide more targeted broadband services over a smaller area, such as a country. Astranis customers to date include local telcos seeking to provide regional coverage in the United States, Mexico, Argentina, Thailand, and the Philippines.

Astranis operates the satellites it builds and leases the capacity over their design life, which at around eight years is roughly half that of conventional geostationary satellites.

According to Astranis, satellites sold so far would bring in $1.2 billion of revenue over their lifetimes. Arcturus, the first and only satellite Astranis has deployed to date, suffered solar power issues after launching last year.

SpaceX is due to launch a batch of four Astranis satellites on a single Falcon 9 rocket this year — collectively Block 2 — which were upgraded to fix the solar array component glitch. An undisclosed rocket has been lined up to deploy five more satellites as part of Block 3.

Gedmark declined to say what future batch of satellites would include Omega in 2026. He said the first flight vehicle of Omega will be completed in mid-2025.

While current generation satellites use hybrid chemical and electric propulsion, he said Omega would be all-electric to increase design life to nearly 10 years and improve in-orbit maneuverability. 

Gedmark declined to disclose any customers for Omega but said Astranis is developing two versions: A dual-use satellite using commercial and military Ka-band frequencies and a military-only version on X-band.

“On the U.S. government side, we know they are looking for as much capacity as they can get,” Gedmark said, “and they’re also looking to move to more proliferated architectures.”

He pointed to Protected Tactical SATCOM – Global (PTS-G), a two-year $558 million program in the President’s recent FY 2025 budget request for a proliferated geostationary telecoms constellation of small satellites in Ka and X-band.

“We’re very excited about the program,” he said. “We intend to compete and we intend to win.”

Performance jump

To pack more performance into a small form factor, Gedmark said Omega would use Astranis-designed semiconductors to produce high-power radio frequency signals, instead of vacuum tubes used by traditional geostationary satellites. 

“Traveling-Wave-Tube Power Amplifiers are very heavy, long-lead, and expensive,” he said, “and so going to a payload that’s using [Solid-State Power Amplifiers] is quite a leap.”

Astranis is also ordering larger deployable reflectors for Omega from Louisville, Colorado-based Tendeg to improve performance.

In general, though, Astranis is seeking to bring more components in-house to accelerate and improve production.

About half of Arcturus was made in-house, compared with nearly 60% for the San Francisco-based company’s most recently produced satellites. Astranis intends to build around 70% of Omega’s components.

Companies that have supplied components for earlier Astranis satellites include L3 Harris Technologies, RUAG Space, Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace, Aitech Systems, and Moog.

Astranis has not named the company that supplied the faulty solar array component on Arcturus. 

Block 2 includes a multi-mission satellite called UtilitySat that would provide interim services for Alaskan telco Pacific Dataport, which ordered Arcturus for services over Alaska.

In February, Astranis sent Arcturus on a two-month journey to an orbital slot over Asia to instead enable Israeli satellite operator Spacecom to meet a regulatory deadline for bringing the position into use.

Emily Hudson

By Emily Hudson

Emily is a talented author who has published several bestselling novels in the mystery genre. With a knack for creating gripping plotlines and intriguing characters, Emily's works have captivated readers worldwide.

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One thought on “Big Astranis Satellites Beefing Up Their Game in the GEO Broadband Scene”
  1. Is there any information on the expected coverage area of these larger Astranis satellites compared to the traditional broadband satellites?

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