Alaska is a step closer to satellite enabled broadband in the state after successful testing of software defined radio payload
After the completion of its payload testing, final assembly has now begun on a broadband communication satellite built for the state of Alaska. The next generation communication satellite from Astranis is due to be delivered later in the year ready for launch on a SpaceX rocket and begin service from geostationary orbit (GEO) in early 2022. This will be the first time Alaska has ever had its own dedicated satellite, providing broadband internet across the state.
End-to-end payload test
The start of the final assembly phase is an important milestone in the manufacturing of Astranis’ first commercial satellite and follows a successful end-to-end payload test that showed a capacity 20% greater than the initial specification.
The end-to-end payload test was an integrated test of the flight payload hardware, across the full receive and transmit chains, including the Low-Noise Amplifiers (LNAs), upconverters, downconverters, Traveling Wave Tube Power Amplifiers (TWTAs) and Astranis’ ultra-wideband Software-Defined Radio digital processor.
The Astranis Software-Defined Radio is a proprietary technology entirely designed, built and space-qualified by Astranis over the past four years. It uses the latest technology in digital signal processing to provide frequency flexibility across 2.5 GHz of spectrum, create thousands of independently routable channels, maximise spectral efficiency and enable reconfiguration on orbit.
According to John Gedmark, CEO at Astranis, it’s hard to overstate the importance of this test of the satellite’s performance.
“We expected to be able to deliver 7.5 Gbps to Alaska, and it looks like we will ultimately deliver as much as 20% more, or around 10 Gbps. That means the satellite will bring affordable broadband to that many more people. The Astranis technical team has done an incredible job to get us here and we’re excited about starting service soon.”
This end-to-end payload test follows months of rigorous testing and review to ensure the programme’s success, including a Critical Design Review hosted by former NASA Administrator Dan Goldin and successful qualification testing of a full-scale prototype, including thermal-vacuum, vibration and acoustic testing.
Bridging the Digital Divide
Given Alaska’s rugged terrain and remote population centres, the state has long faced one of the sharpest digital divides in the United States. According to one source, 39% of Alaskans are underserved when it comes to internet access — the highest rate of any state. The Astranis satellite will roughly triple the currently available satellite capacity in Alaska while also bringing costs down to one third of current pricing for both residential and business customers.
Pacific Dataport Inc (PDI) CEO Chuck Schumann says, “The PDI team is very pleased with Astranis’ steady, methodical progress towards delivering this much-needed and game-changing satellite to orbit. We know Astranis is working around the clock to ensure that this programme is a resounding success, and it’s inspiring to see such a strong, concerted effort focused on a state traditionally overlooked by major satellite players. This Astranis satellite is built for Alaska, and we are eager to see it head to our orbital location directly in line with the state.”
Astranis’s Alaska satellite, named Arcturus after the brightest star in the northern hemisphere, will serve as the first satellite of Pacific Dataport, Inc.’s Aurora system.