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Astranis unveils Omega ‘MicroGEO’ satellites for beaming dedicated broadband down from high orbit

Astranis has unveiled a new generation of communications satellites that will deliver broadband to customers on Earth from a geostationary orbit, but faster and smaller than any Comsat satellite. They believe the future of orbital communications lies not just in higher orbits, but in allowing customers – government and commercial – to have their own private satellite network.

Called Omega, the new class of satellites will each provide around 50 gigabits per second of bandwidth in both the civilian and military Ka bands, making it clear from the start that this is a dual-use technology.

Astranis builds and operates relatively small broadband satellites in high orbits and sells this capacity to telecommunications and Internet service providers. The company has contracts to provide capacity to providers in Mexico, the Philippines, Alaska and Southeast Asia.

The startup is rewarded by the relatively small size of its GEO satellites, which are normally huge and, therefore, easy to track and potentially attack.

“We need to move towards a more resilient architecture. No more big, fat and juicy targets! said John Gedmark, CEO of Astranis, during a Space Symposium event where the news was announced.

The improved bandwidth is due to a next-generation Astranis software-defined radio, but the signal is deployed more efficiently; While the previous generation sent out a set of coherent beams, like spotlights, the new generation is more like a large array of LEDs, providing a uniform signal over a much larger area. Gedmark said that while the number of points that can be served depends on the customer and use case, it theoretically runs into the millions. The satellites use existing Ka-band receivers rather than a custom antenna like Starlink’s.

Speaking of competitors: When asked about the evolution of the orbital communications market in the short term, Gedmark was very optimistic. He said the appetite for bandwidth is effectively unlimited, at least at the prices they are able to offer, which are much lower than traditional GEO data connections.

Image credits: Astranis (Opens in a new window)

Notably, Astranis said the satellite will support specific waveforms of interest to the DOD, such as the Protected Tactical Waveform, so it can still provide capability even in contested environments. The Astranis proposal – many small satellites in GEO – is a far cry from traditional technology, which generally relied on very very large and very very expensive and unwieldy satellites in GEO. In other words, easy targets for adversaries.

Like the company’s current satellites, Omega will have the ability to maneuver in GEO thanks to fully electric onboard propulsion. Astranis said the more efficient thrust would allow it to maintain its station for at least ten years, as well as perform numerous repositionings and other maneuvers. By then, the next generation will likely be ready to take their place.

What will perhaps be Astranis’ flagship product, however, will be the satellites dedicated to customers. Obviously, countries have their own spy satellites, etc., but these cost hundreds of millions of dollars and are often funded by defense budgets. But even multinational companies don’t tend to have that kind of liquidity, at least for this purpose – and if they did, they don’t tend to have satellite management departments. Astranis plans to essentially offer “satellite as a service”, in which, for an upfront and monthly fee, a satellite can be allocated entirely (or in part) for the use of a single customer.

Gedmark declined to name the companies that had expressed interest or been otherwise courted. However, he suggested that energy and oil and gas companies were a no-brainer, with holdings across large geographies and demand for a large quantity of secure satellites. data. He also said that while there are no official plans yet to approach the cislunar market, there is a huge opportunity for future growth there.

The company aims to complete the first Omega satellite in 2025 and put it into orbit in 2026. The plan calls for launching six satellites at that time, and up to 24 per year will then be launched depending on the evolution of the manufacturing.

techcrunch

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