Astranis Orders Dedicated Falcon 9 To Launch Four MicroGEO Sats

Astranis says one of its smaller geostationary satellites can provide broadband coverage to a geographic area of a medium-sized country .
Credit: Astranis

Astranis Space Technologies plans to launch four of its MicroGEO communication satellites into orbit at once aboard a dedicated SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in 2023.

Because the four satellites would be “well below the maximum payload capacity” for the Falcon 9 rocket, the launch vehicle could use its surplus energy to quickly insert the spacecraft into a custom geostationary orbit, Astranis said April 5.

“Buying an entire dedicated launch is a huge de-risker for us,” said John Gedmark, chief executive of Astranis. “We’re able to control our own destiny here, from a scheduling standpoint. We’re also getting an impressive amount of extra performance, getting us closer to our intended orbit and delivering service to our customers much sooner.”

Astranis’ MicroGEO satellites weigh about 400 kg making them much lighter than conventional geostationary communications satellites. Astranis says its spacecraft can provide broadband coverage to a geographic area of a medium-sized country and use a software-defined radio payload for greater frequency and coverage flexibility.

The manufacturer claims its MicroGEO communications satellites cost less than a conventional geostationary satellite, making it economically feasible to provide broadband to dispersed populations. It says it can build a satellite in 12-18 months.

Astranis plans to launch “the world’s first MicroGEO satellite,” the Arcturus, this summer onboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rideshare mission. That satellite’s capacity is to be leased to Pacific Dataport Inc. for broadband coverage over Alaska. 

“Once in orbit it will provide dedicated bandwidth as a service to the entire state, tripling the currently available satellite bandwidth in the state, and allowing our partners Pacific Dataport Inc. to sell to consumers at half the cost as existing services,” Astranis said.

The four communications satellites to be launched in 2023 have yet to be built, but would come with enhancements including increased throughput, a longer mission life and higher redundancy, the company said.

One of the satellites to be launched in 2023 will have its capacity leased by Grupo Andesat for broadband coverage of Peru. Anuvu, which provides Wi-Fi for airplanes and cruise ships, will lease two of the satellites. The third satellite customer has not been announced yet.

Astranis plans to ramp up production and its satellite launch cadence after 2023.

“Our plan has always been to iterate the design while scaling production to the point where we are building and launching dozens of satellites into orbit every year,” Gedmark said. “By 2030 there will be more than 100 Astranis satellites in active service, connecting millions of people in underserved communities worldwide with true low-cost broadband internet access.”

Garrett Reim

Based in the Seattle area, Garrett covers the space sector and advanced technologies that are shaping the future of aerospace and defense, including space startups, advanced air mobility and artificial intelligence.