TAMPA, Fla. — A telco in the Philippines has called dibs on a small geostationary spacecraft launching early next year that Astranis had reserved for Andesat, the cellular backhaul provider now facing delays to deploy Peru’s first dedicated telecoms satellite.
Orbits Corp, part of Philippine internet service provider HTechCorp, earlier ordered a separate broadband satellite from Astranis that is slated to launch later in 2024, joining a batch the Californian small GEO specialist calls Block 3.
Astranis chief of staff Christian Keil said Andesat-1 is being moved from Block 2 to a later batch of satellites to better align with the telco’s business needs.
He said more details would be announced later for Andesat, who could not be reached for comment.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 is due to launch four Block 2 satellites in the first quarter of 2024, delayed from this year following the failure Astranis announced in July of its Arcturus debut spacecraft.
Joining the renamed Agila satellite for Orbits Corp as part of Block 2 are UtilitySat and a pair of spacecraft for U.S.-based mobile satellite connectivity specialist Anuvu. UtilitySat will serve as a partial replacement for the Arcturus satellite Astranis launched in April for inaugural customer Pacific Dataport of Alaska only to suffer a debilitating malfunction.
Block 3 comprises five satellites and customers for only three have been disclosed so far: The second satellite for Orbits Corp and two for Mexican telco Apco Networks. Astranis has also not yet announced a launch provider for this batch of satellites.
Astranis satellites are much smaller than traditional geostationary spacecraft and are around 400 kilograms each, geared for providing more regional coverage with dedicated bandwidth at lower costs.
Astranis also aims to operate the satellites it builds on behalf of customers, which purchase the capacity via long-term leases.
“Generally speaking, Astranis provides bandwidth as a service and given that our satellites are software-defined, we have the ability to shift satellites around in our production queue to meet customer needs as they arise,” Keil said.
“That’s an important part of the Astranis model and you’re seeing it in action here.”
Andesat was one of the first customers Astranis announced after being founded in 2015. In 2021, Astranis said the contract was worth more than $90 million over Andesat-1’s eight-year design life in orbit.
The contract also included a teleport for Astranis to build in Peru, as well as an option for a second satellite that could launch as early as 2024.
Keil declined to give an update on the teleport and other details involving specific customer contracts.
Mountain ranges and the Amazon rainforest make connecting cell towers in Peru via terrestrial networks challenging and costly. With Andesat-1, the companies said three million Peruvians would get access to affordable 4G services for the first time.
Only 11,000 of 42,000 local communities across the Philippines are covered by fiber networks as the archipelago’s geography also makes deploying terrestrial connectivity difficult.
Orbits Corp estimates two satellites would accelerate economic growth in the Philippines and create up to 10,000 direct and indirect jobs in the country, Astranis CEO John Gedmark said in a Nov. 16 blog post announcing the contract for Agila.