An Earth to LEO Communications Revolution: an Excerpt from SpaceNews

This is an excerpt from December 5, 2016 issue of SpaceNews. (For full article, go here.)


Spaceflight Networks, a subsidiary of Spaceflight Industries, already operates ground stations in Tukwila, Washington; Fairbanks, Alaska; and Invercargill, New Zealand, to downlink data from Spaceflight Industries’ BlackSky Pathfinder-1, an Earth-observation satellite launched in September.

“We wanted to make sure we had operational, reliable service before we signed up a lot of other people,” said Jason Andrews, Spaceflight Industries chief executive.

Spaceflight Networks plans to begin providing communications services to “a few early adopters in 2017 and make the service available to the broader market in 2018,” Jodi Sorensen, Spaceflight Industries vice president for marketing and communications, said by email.

By 2018, Spaceflight Networks plans to operate between 40 and 50 high-throughput antennas at 17 locations around the world to offer communication services to companies operating constellations of small satellites.

Because of the wide geographic distribution of the ground stations, customers who purchase compatible radios and Spaceflight Networks data plans will be able to obtain web-based access to their imagery within a few minutes of its capture, Andrews said.

Customers can select from a variety of radios, ranging from low-data-rate UHF devices designed to provide telemetry, tracking and control for cubesats to microsatellite X-band radios to transmit data at speeds of hundreds of megabits per second.

“Ultimately it is about helping customers get their data back,” Andrews said. “We are building the infrastructure for this small satellite constellation revolution.”

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