Aug 27, 2019 - Science

Astranis to launch satellite aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 in 2020

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launching to space. Photo: SpaceX

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launching to space. Photo: SpaceX

Satellite internet startup Astranis is planning to launch its first commercial satellite to space aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in 2020, the company announced Monday.

How it works: The satellite is designed to improve broadband internet service in Alaska starting in March 2021.

Why it matters: Unlike SpaceX or Amazon — which plan to use many small satellites in low-Earth orbit to provide internet to large swaths of the world — Astranis is focusing its efforts on satellites that can deliver internet to relatively wide areas with one spacecraft at a time to start.

"You can get some service, effectively immediately, to the places that most need it, and really provide a focused beam of bandwidth on those places."
— Astranis CEO John Gedmark to Axios

According to Gedmark, the satellite going up next year is expected to reduce internet costs for Alaska’s Pacific Dataport and Microcom customers by up to 3 times, delivering broadband for about $100 per month or less.

  • Astranis' satellite for Alaska sits somewhere between SpaceX's Starlink satellites — which are about 500 pounds each — and huge, traditional telecommunications satellites.
  • The company hopes to eventually launch dozens more to bring broadband to underserved populations in other parts of the world.

Yes, but: Astranis plans to launch its satellites to geostationary orbit — about 22,000 miles above Earth's surface — which could create a delay in response time for customers using the internet service.

  • “If they are underserved or have no connection at all, then they just want internet as fast as possible. … Really, 95 percent of what people do in today’s world is not latency-sensitive,” Gedmark told GeekWire's Alan Boyle in January.
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