SpaceX has successfully launched what is believed to be the first 5G cellular standard satellite in low Earth orbit (LEO). The satellite, called Sateliot_0 or “The GroundBreaker,” weighs 22 pounds (10 kilograms) and will serve as an orbital data relay for a constellation of over 250 spacecraft. These satellites will communicate with terrestrial cell towers and address gaps in data networks worldwide. The GroundBreaker was launched using a Falcon 9 rocket from SpaceX’s facility in Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. Sateliot, the Barcelona-based company responsible for The GroundBreaker and the Sateliot_X constellation network operator, believes that this technology will enable global access to the Internet of Things (IoT).
Sateliot stated that it is leading a revolutionary change where cellular terrestrial telecom and satellite connectivity are seamlessly merging for the first time in history. The company aims to address an 85% gap in mobile connectivity across the globe and has a vision to apply its technology to various public and private markets, such as road, rail, air, and sea transportation, with the potential to increase the efficiency of numerous industries. Sateliot’s goal is to expand the possibilities of connected devices by connecting the IoT to a cohesive network between ground and orbital cellular relays. By doing so, the company aims to offer a seamless switch between terrestrial and non-terrestrial 5G networks without requiring additional hardware or modems. Sateliot intends to keep the existing sim cards and mobile operators of users with standard roaming agreements, which could facilitate worldwide massive adoption of the Internet of Things.
Sateliot_0 is the first satellite in a constellation that will grow in number, with each spacecraft orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes and covering an area three times the size of Texas. The company has reported sales of over $1.3 billion as its first satellite begins operating. Sateliot has yet to announce the launch date and vehicle for its next satellite, but on the company’s website, the “Next Mission” page suggests that the public should “stay tuned” while showing an image of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy liftoff in the background.
The number of mega-constellations being planned or developed is increasing. In addition to SpaceX’s well-known Starlink broadband satellites, the European Union and China have their own constellations in progress. Amazon, an online retailer and web services giant, also intends to launch its own constellation called Project Kuiper, beginning in 2024.