Announcing UtilitySat, the world’s first multi-mission geostationary satellite

New product to provide on-demand connectivity for disaster relief, bridge capacity, and surge applications

August 9, 2023
John Gedmark, Astranis Co-founder and CEO

We started Astranis to build something new: small communications satellites that provide dedicated broadband capacity for our customers. At the end of this year we’re launching four more of them on a dedicated Falcon 9 rocket, with many more to come after that.

That launch of four satellites includes one satellite for Peru, two satellites for in-flight connectivity, and a fourth satellite that had been previously kept under wraps. Until now.

Introducing UtilitySat, the Swiss Army Knife of satellites

This is a new product — the world’s first multi-mission commercial GEO satellite, capable of conducting multiple fully-operational broadband connectivity missions. And it is just the first of many. We’ll plan to launch many UtilitySats in the years to come.

UtilitySat can provide connectivity on standard Ku, Ka, and Q/V bands, and has the flexibility to dial in exact frequencies using Astranis’s proprietary ultra-wideband software-defined radio.

It can also relocate dozens of times around the GEO belt over its lifetime. It does this using our unique on-board dual-propulsion architecture, which includes both a chemical monopropellant system and an electric ion thruster.

A new mission every year, or every month

When we first began development of UtilitySat almost 2 years ago, we had many different missions in mind. UtilitySat can serve as bridge capacity for a customer that is waiting for a dedicated satellite, as an on-orbit spare, or as extra, surge capacity that can be brought in to supplement the broadband service we’re providing to one of our customers.

There are acute needs as well — a natural disaster can wipe out terrestrial connectivity over a huge geographic area. One of the top priorities for first responders and during disaster relief is reliable comms on the ground. With multiple UtilitySats on orbit, Astranis can bring in extra capacity on incredibly short notice. Capacity that is compatible with existing, low-cost GEO ground terminals.

In initial conversations with customers for UtilitySat, we’ve seen huge demand — these customers often want to lease the entire capacity of the satellite once they learn what UtilitySat can offer. Customers need all the capacity they can get, and new capacity that can be deployed on short notice is a huge deal and a huge departure from traditional GEO satellites. We see a future where customers will be able to call up extra capacity on demand to augment their existing capacity needs, and we’re making that future a reality.

US Government applications

The first UtilitySat mission will be a commercial one, but we are seeing enormous demand from both from commercial companies and from our government customers. The US Government has unique needs — Combatant Commanders need to be able to task dedicated satellites to specific AORs at a moment’s notice — and surge communications would give them a new tool in their toolbox, helping them win even in a contested environment.

And more broadly speaking our military leaders have said the one priority in national security space is to add resiliency to our fleets, using larger numbers of smaller, flexible, and maneuverable satellites so we’re not dependent on just a handful of huge satellites in GEO. UtilitySat shows that Astranis can do just that.

Not traditional GEO satellites

UtilitySat is only possible because of Astranis’s unique technology — including our proprietary software–defined radio. The flexibility of having on-board digital signal processing allows us to build a standardized satellite design, and move a lot of what used to be done in hardware, into software. UtilitySat uses the standard Astranis MicroGEO platform, adding more frequency bands and some new software capabilities to make maximum use of the available spectrum, no matter where the satellite is on orbit.

Traditional geostationary satellites are designed to sit in one orbital slot for up to 20 years, with a set of frequency bands that is hardwired in at the factory. Their single mission must be predetermined many years before they are launched. Astranis does not build traditional GEO satellites. From day one we knew there had to be a better way, and we’re doing it.

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Announcing UtilitySat, the world’s first multi-mission geostationary satellite
August 9, 2023

Astranis's second product is UtilitySat. It's the Swiss Army Knife of satellites, and something our industry has never seen before: a multi-mission commercial GEO satellite, capable of conducting multiple fully-operational broadband connectivity missions.

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