Astranis wins Space Force contract to integrate military satcom on commercial payload

By Sandra Erwin,
Published by SpaceNews, 14 February 2023

The $4.5 million SBIR Phase 3 contract has $6 million option for an on-orbit demonstration

WASHINGTON – Astranis Space Technologies won a $4.5 million contract to integrate a U.S. military communications waveform on one of the company’s satellite communications payloads, the company announced Feb. 14

Under a two-year Small Business Innovation Research Phase 3 contract awarded by the U.S. Space Force, Astranis will integrate the Protected Tactical Waveform on a commercial communications payload. The contract has options worth an additional $6 million for an on-orbit demonstration, Astranis CEO John Gedmark told SpaceNews.

The waveform known as PTW is a specific type of networking software used by the military to transmit voice and data. 

The U.S. Air Force developed the PTW a decade ago to add increased security to satellite-based communications. The waveform over the years has been integrated on both military and commercial satellites. 

Astranis, a San Francisco-based startup, makes small geostationary satellites aimed at users that want dedicated coverage over a specific region. The company has been pursuing opportunities in the defense market as the military seeks to take advantage of emerging commercial technologies.

Astranis’ small GEO satellites — ranging from 350 to 400 kilograms — can be repurposed relatively quickly from one region to another based on the customer needs, Gedmark said. 

He said the company got the Space Force contract just six weeks after the head of U.S. Space Systems Command, Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein, visited the Astranis factory in San Francisco and heard about the potential military applications for micro-GEO communications satellites.

Gedmark said he hopes the PTW demonstration, if successful, will convince Space Systems Command to order “a sizable number of these satellites in GEO and those would be dedicated assets for the Space Force.”

Astranis sees this project “as a stepping stone towards what certainly could be a sizable program in the future,” he added. 

The company’s first satellite is projected to launch in the coming weeks as a secondary payload alongside the Viasat-3 broadband satellite on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy. Astranis’ first satellite, named Arcturus, willprovideinternet services over Alaska

Astranis purchased a dedicated SpaceX Falcon 9 launch to deploy four more small GEO satellites some time over the coming year.Two are for inflight connectivity provider Anuvu, one for Peru’s telecommunications service Andesat and the fourth customer has not yet been announced. 

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