Render of Phantom Space launch vehicle deploying the Phantom Cloud constellation. Solar panels have been deployed on the first satellite. Credit: Phantom Space

SAN FRANCISCO – Assured Space Access announced a strategic partnership with Phantom Space to establish Phantom Cloud, a data-backhaul service for satellites.

Under the agreement, Chandler, Arizona-based Assured Space will design and build radio frequency communications payloads for the 66-satellite Phantom Cloud constellation. The partners also will work together to design, develop, launch and operate the new constellation.

“We want to put the basic functionality of a ground station in space,” Jim Cantrell, Phantom Space co-founder and CEO, told SpaceNews.

Moving Bits

Since Phantom Space was established in Tucson, Arizona, in 2019, executives have talked extensively about plans to mass-manufacture small satellites and launch vehicles but said little about Phantom Cloud.

A 2021 U.S. patent filing describes a constellation to provide data handling, computation and communications for Earth-based and space-based activities. Six space-based layers make up the architecture: an Earth-user layer, a data-relay layer, a computing layer, a terrestrial-communications layer, a core space layer and a space-user layer.

The architecture is designed to accommodate end users with varying requirements for security, trust, bandwidth and computation, according to the patent application. Phantom Space co-founders Cantrell and Michael D’Angelo, and aerospace engineer Jack Fox filed the patent application.

“In space, I think the killer app will be movement of bits,” Cantrell said. “Satellite communications today is ripe for disruption.”

First Customer

Assured Space, a decades-old high-tech products and services company, recently pivoted to focus on RF telecommunications and electronics. With technology licensed from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command and in-house innovation, Assured Space developed a Luneberg Lens satellite communications terminal. In addition, Assured Space engineers, led by Rick Sturdivant, author of the book “Microwave and Millimeter-Wave Electronic Packaging,” established a line of space-based phased array RF antenna products.

“We anticipate Phantom Space will be the first customer to adopt our technology,” Assured Space CEO Sean McDaniel told SpaceNews.

Linking Machines

Like SpaceX and its Starlink satellite communications constellation, Phantom Space seeks to reduce the cost and speed up deployment of the Phantom Cloud constellation by manufacturing the satellites and launch vehicles.

“We want to be complementary to what Starlink is doing,” Cantrell said. “We want to focus more on the machine rather than the human-to-human market. That’s a perfect place for a relatively small constellation of satellites.”

In a statement, Cantrell said Assured Space’s technology would give Phantom Space “an edge over our competitors in the data backhaul and satellite communications markets.”

McDaniel said in a statement that working with Phantom Space was “an excellent opportunity to advance our line of sophisticated RF communications payloads and sensor products.”

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...