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First Astranis Satellite Hits Milestone, Beaming its First Signals Down to Alaska

By Rachel Jewett | May 24, 2023

Astranis team reacts to their first satellite launch. Photo: Astranis

Astranis successfully hit a milestone with its first satellite, completing an end-to-end test of its payload, connecting to remote user terminals in Alaska. The satellite, Arcturus, is the first Astranis MicroGEO satellite and it was launched as a secondary payload on the SpaceX Falcon Heavy mission for ViaSat-3. 

Astranis reported Wednesday that the satellite has reached its orbital slot in Geostationary Orbit (GEO). The satellite connected a gateway in Utah with multiple user terminals in Alaska for the very first time, validating the company’s software-defined payload. 

“Achieving this milestone took years of work from some of the most talented hardware and software engineers in the world,” CEO John Gedmark said in a statement. “In the early years we wondered whether building a small comms satellite for Geostationary Orbit was even possible. We have now proved that it is.”

This satellite will serve dedicated customer Pacific Dataport, an Alaskan satellite services provider which will use the capacity to provide broadband in Alaska. Astranis said that at full capacity, it will more than triple the amount of satellite bandwidth available in the state. 

Pacific Dataport exec Shawn Williams previously spoke in-depth with Via Satellite about how this satellite will help bridge the digital divide in Alaska

“The most exciting part of the Aurora 4A launch is knowing how many lives this one satellite will change,” Williams said at the time. “We often work with Alaska’s tribal leaders and talk about how the Alaska Native villages are truly the have-nots in the digital divide. If they do have broadband, it’s slow and expensive. This satellite will start to level the playing field and finally bring some competition to the market.”

Astranis’s business model is built around the MicroGEO satellite, a much smaller satellite platform in Geostationary Orbit that beams capacity down onto a set geographical area. The company says this model makes it possible for regional service providers to secure dedicated capacity for their regions. 

Astranis plans for four more of its satellites to launch later this year — including one for Peruvian service provider Andesat, and two for mobility service provider Anuvu