SES CEO Steve Collar and John Finney, Isotropic Systems CEO, with the terminal designed for O3b mPOWER at the Satellite 2020 conference in Washington. Credit: Isotropic

WASHINGTON – Isotropic Systems won a U.S. Defense Department contract that the satellite terminal developer would love to announce. Unfortunately, the startup is prohibited from identifying the specific agency, dollar value or work to be completed, John Finney, Isotropic Systems founder and CEO, told SpaceNews.

Still, the new contract reveals how Isotropic, a firm once focused on the consumer broadband market, has pivoted toward developing terminals for government and defense customers, established satellite constellation operators, telecommunications, enterprises and maritime applications, while licensing technology for aircraft terminals.

Isotropic changed its priorities to reflect market realities. For the moment, the firm does not see a market for the consumer broadband terminals it developed, Finney said.

Instead, Isotropic is focused on developing terminals for satellite fleet operators like SES and Inmarsat. SES and Isotropic announced plans March 5 to conduct tests in 2020 of Isotropic’s software-defined terminals with SES O3b satellites later this year. That work will inform Isotropic’s development of terminals for O3b’s future mPower constellation.

Isotropic plans to deliver a full prototype for mPower in 2021 and begin producing the terminals in 2022, when mPower is scheduled to begin operations, Finney said.

Isotropic also is continuing to develop terminals for Inmarsat’s Global Xpress constellation under a partnership announced in 2018.

On the government side, Isotropic is seeking work with the NATO countries and the Five Eyes alliance, which includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Isotropic’s initial Defense Department contract is likely to lead to more U.S. government contracts, Finney said.

Isotropic, a firm based in the southeast England town of Reading, created a U.S. business unit in Linthicum, Maryland in 2018. Isotropic employees in Maryland possess government security clearances, Finney said, and the organization is set up to comply with the International Traffic in Arms Regulations rules, which restrict foreign sales of military technology and dissemination of related information.

For the aviation market, Isotropic announced plans March 4 to license technology rather than developing terminals.

“We’re going to offer our beam-forming technology under license to selected aeronautical integration partners so they can then put that into their next-generation roadmap,” Finney said. “We will effectively be a component supplier and [partners] will bring that component into their existing [aeronautical radio] mainframes and package that into an aeronautical antenna.”

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...