Constellations, Launch, New Space and more…

Astranis Satellite Suffers Anomaly Disrupting Plans for Internet Service to Alaska

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
July 21, 2023
Filed under , , ,
Astranis Satellite Suffers Anomaly Disrupting Plans for Internet Service to Alaska
MicroGEO satellite in orbit
Image Credit: Astranis.

The Astranis-built Arcturus geosynchronous communications satellite launched in April has suffered an anomaly with its solar panels that will prevent it from delivering dedicated Internet services to customers in Alaska, CEO John Gedmark tweeted on Friday.

A vendor-supplied drive that points the solar panels at the sun malfunctioned on orbit after engineers began commissioning Arcturus for service, Gedmark wrote. As a result, the satellite is only operating at full power for part of the day.

Gedmark said Arcturus had been functioning perfectly before the anomaly. Astranis’ customer, Pacific Dataport, had planned to use the satellite to deliver Internet service to customers in Alaska.

“This is a frustrating situation — the Arcturus spacecraft is in a safe state and fully under our control, the payload and our other Astranis in-house designed components are all working perfectly, and the tanks are fueled for years of on-orbit operation. But unless something major changes, the mission of providing internet connectivity in Alaska will be delayed,” Gedmark wrote.

Astranis plans to launch a replacement named UtilitySat at the end of the year, he added. The multi-purpose satellite will serve as bridge until Astranis can launch a replacement satellite for Arcturus.

Astranis developed UtilitySat to serve as an on-orbit spare. Wikipedia says the replacement spacecraft is manifested to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 with three other Astranis-built communications satellites in October. The launch will be delayed to the end of the year.

Two of the satellites on the flight will be used by California-based Anuvu to provide mobile communications to passengers in the air and at sea. Andesat will use the other satellite to increase the number of Peru’s 4G sites from 100 to 1,000 and provide service to two million residents, Astranis said.

The company also recently announced a partnership with Orbits Corp. to bring affordable Internet service to two million residents in remote areas of the Philippines.

Astranis’ business model involves building MicroGEO satellites that can be built and launched quickly. The company works with local communications providers to “provide high-speed, reliable connectivity to an entire state, country, or region.”

Engineers have determined what caused the solar array drive assembly to malfunction and are making modifications on future satellites, Gedmark said.

“We have now reproduced the problem on the ground in a vacuum chamber, zeroed in on the exact source of the failure, and know how to fix it for future spacecraft,” he wrote. “Because this failure occurred within the internal workings of a component supplied by an external vendor, we’re not in a position to go into the full technical details. But what we can say is we know exactly how to quickly solve this issue on future spacecraft that are in production as we speak.”

Arcturus will be refocused on a secondary mission, Gedmark said. The satellite could include serving as an orbital testbed.

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy launched Arcturus with Viasat’s ViaSat-3 Americas satellite and Gravity Space’s G-Space 1 (Nusantara-H1-A) CubeSat on April 30.

Gedmark told SpaceNews that he has not seen any connection between the two anomalies. The publication reported that Gravity Space’s satellite is functioning normally.

Leave a Reply