Startup to provide internet using small GEO satellites

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1. What happened?

Astranis, a San Francisco-based startup, has raised $18 million in Series A funding and plans to provide broadband internet access using small satellites (smallsats) in geostationary (GEO) orbit. The funding was led by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Others in the funding round include Y Combinator, Fifty Years, Refactor Capital and Indicator Fund.

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2. What will the funding go to?

The funding will be used to develop the first smallsat. The company plans to develop dozens of smallsats that can each provide 10 gigabits per second of capacity. The smallsats can provide internet access to underserved areas, more cost-effectively than traditional large GEO satellites or constellations of low Earth orbit smallsats.

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3. Astranis ...

“We’ve taken a lot of these new approaches around small satellites and applied them to solve this problem in telecommunications,” said John Gedmark, chief executive of Astranis and former executive director of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, in an interview. Gedmark is one of the co-founders of Astranis, along with Ryan McLinko, the company’s chief technology officer.

Astranis currently has 20 employees, and looks to grow to about 30 in the next year and 40 to 50 by the time the company’s first operational satellite is in orbit, Gedmark said. The company is building out a 15,000-square-foot facility in San Francisco that will serve as the manufacturing facility for the satellites.

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4. Have they tested anything?

The company tested a payload on an experimental CubeSat, DemoSat-2, which launched on an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (IPSLV) in January. “Everything on the satellite worked perfectly,” he said, including a test of its ability to perform “full broadband comms” during a ground station pass last month.