While low earth orbit (LEO) broadband satellite constellations are all the rage, small satellite manufacturer Astranis is pushing the envelope in the traditional geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO) space. The company last week raised $90 million in series B financing as it moves to put its first satellite into orbit.
Leading the investment round was Venrock with “significant participation” by existing investor Andressen Horowitz, along with participation form existing investors Fifty Years, Refactor Capital and Y Combinator, among other funds and angel investors.
“Global connectivity is an industry prime for disruption,” said Ethan Batraski, partner at Venrock. “Astranis’s team and microsatellite technology put them in a strong position to fulfill the needs of the new market, which is vastly different than the market of 20 or 30 years ago.”
Astranis is betting downsized GEO communications satellites are the wave of the future, leveraging reduced size, software-defined radio (SDR) and lower cost to quickly manufacture and launch capacity in months instead of years. An Astranis satellite weighs in at 350 kilograms, a fraction of the 6,000 plus kilogram satellites the size of a SUV or larger.
“We know that increasing internet access can change lives for the better, especially for people living in developing countries and the world’s most remote locations,” said John Gedmark, CEO and co-founder of Astranis. “By connecting those who need connectivity the most, we’re encouraging health, learning, and entrepreneurship across the world.”
The round includes $40 million of cash and debt facility of up to $50 million from TriplePoint Capital which Astranis will use to support current and future projects. To date, Astranis has raised more than $108 million in funding.
Astranis says it is in talks to kick off new projects (satellites) around the world in 2020 and 2021 by partnering with internet service providers (ISPs), established satellite operators, governments, and many others. It now has a team of over 100 people on payroll. The company expects to launch its first commercial satellite in 2021 to provide dedicated bandwidth over Alaska.
Micro GEO satellites such as those built by Astranis are expected to lower the cost of broadband satellite capacity. A typical GEO broadband satellite costs upwards of $100 million or more while Astranis may come in at $40 million or less, plus the cost of launch to orbit. A smaller satellite can be directly lofted into a GEO orbit by medium-sized launch vehicles such as the SpaceX Falcon 9, putting in into service much faster.