Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
San Francisco, CA, United States (4E) – Astranis Space Technologies, a San Francisco-based start-up, has secured millions of dollars in funding for its project to provide billions of people access to the Internet through its satellite technology.
Astranis said it’s raised $13.5 million in a Series A round. The round, which brought Astranis’ total funding to $18 million, was led by Andreessen Horowitz, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm. Also participating were investors Y Combinator, Refactor Capital, Indicator Fund and Fifty Years.
Astranis was co-founded in 2015 by rocket scientists John Gedmark and Ryan McLinko. The founders said their satellite technology uses smaller, lower-cost telecommunications satellites capable of bringing Internet connectivity even to the most remote places on the 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,” said Gedmark, who is Astranis CEO.
The Astranis satellites, which weigh 300 kg each, will be placed in geostationary orbit (GEO) where they will be located above specific points on the Earth. The satellite constellation will be capable of delivering broadband internet services around the globe.
“Other micro-satellites companies are all working on low earth orbit (LEO), where satellites rotate around the Earth every 90 minutes,” according to Gedmark. “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 allow the Astranis constellation to cover larger geographic areas. The first prototype was launched this January. The company has confirmed it’s 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,” said Gedmark. “This is a more direct path.”
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. This technology also offers Astranis the flexibility to use different frequency bands rather than have them hardwired.
Astranis is making its satellites in San Francisco and plans to launch their first commercial satellite in 2019. The company’s first customers will be satellite operators already using satellite bandwidth for Internet services.
“We want people to have access to information about healthcare, agriculture, and human rights,” said Gedmark. “We want them to be masters of their own destiny. There is a shared store of human knowledge that we take for granted. And part of the world that is online is missing out, too. Everyone that’s not online isn’t as able to apply their brainpower and smarts to solve problems.”
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