TAMPA, Fla. — The first Astranis-built satellite has reached geostationary orbit over Alaska and completed a key end-to-end payload test following its Falcon Heavy launch at the end of April, the Californian manufacturer announced May 24.
The 400-kilogram Arcturus satellite reached its 163 degrees West orbital slot about a week after launching as a secondary payload to the 6,400-kilogram ViaSat-3 spacecraft, Astranis CEO and cofounder John Gedmark said in an interview.
Core functions including the telecoms satellite’s software-defined radio are working as expected, Gedmark said, after Arcturus successfully connected to a gateway in Utah and beamed its first signals to remote user terminals in Alaska.
“It is the biggest milestone that we have hit as a company yet in our seven-year history,” he said.
Early test results show payload performance at speeds of around 9 gigabits per second (Gbps), he added, despite being specced for 7.5 Gbps.
However, Astranis still needs to finalize calibration and wrap up more minor health checks before the satellite can be put into service for Pacific Dataport Inc. (PDI), a telco based in Alaska, which Gedmark expects will be completed by mid-June.
Astranis is operating Arcturus and has a contract to lease its capacity to PDI over the satellite’s seven-year design life.
Similar capacity deals have been secured with customers for nine other satellites that slated for deployment over the next two years, according to Gedmark.
These satellites have design improvements enabling them to provide more capacity and have an extra year of design life.
The company has so far only announced customers for five of these nine satellites: Mexican telco Apco Networks, U.S.-based mobile satellite connectivity specialist Anuvu, and cellular backhaul provider Andesat of Peru.
Gedmark said Astranis expects to book more than $1 billion in revenue from these nine satellites over their eight-year lifetimes.
Earlier this month, British satellite operator Inmarsat said it had ordered three satellites from 3D printing specialist Swissto12 that are around 900 kilograms each.
Although heavier than Astranis satellites, the Swiss manufacturer’s Hummingsat platform still weighs about five times less than an average conventional geostationary satellite, offering a cheaper alternative for operators with business plans that do not require as much capacity.
Swissto12’s first commercial satellite is slated to launch in 2025 in a mission for Intelsat.
Viasat expects its first of three Viasat-3 satellites, each designed to provide more than 1,000 Gbps of capacity, will be ready to enter service at 88.9 degrees West over the Americas in mid-summer following the Falcon Heavy launch. The U.S.-based broadband operator recently said it is on track to clear all the regulatory hurdles in the way of plans to buy Inmarsat by the end of May.