Tag Archive for: GEO

Microsoft and Viasat said on Dec. 14th that they will partner to find solutions for bringing internet access to 10 million unserved or underserved people within three years.

Viasat is the first satellite operator to join Microsoft’s Airband initiative, which aims to deliver connectivity to a quarter of a billion people by the end of 2025 through a mix of technologies.

Microsoft set up Airband in 2017 and said the initiative had enabled high-speed internet access for more than 51 million people globally — about 20% of its goal.

In addition to telcos, Airband seeks to facilitate connectivity-enabling partnerships among equipment makers, local and regional energy access providers, nonprofits, and governmental and non-governmental organizations.

“Microsoft and Viasat will jointly review options to co-invest on a project-by-project basis,” said Evan Dixon, Viasat’s president of global fixed broadband.

The companies will first look at projects that could leverage Viasat’s fleet of existing satellites in geostationary orbit, including its upcoming ViaSat-3 constellation.

However, Dixon said Viasat will also explore solutions from low Earth orbit in its search to deliver “broadband in the most productive and cost-effective manner.”

Half of the 10 million people the companies are partnering to reach are in Africa, where they said Viasat’s support would help expand Airband’s work for the first time to Egypt, Senegal, and Angola.

Only 40% of Africa’s roughly 1.4 billion population is currently online, according to data from the United Nations.

“Working with Viasat, we will use satellite to reach remote areas that previously have had few, if any, options for conventional connectivity,” Teresa Hutson, Microsoft’s vice president of technology and corporate responsibility, said in a statement.

“Together, we will be able to rapidly scale and expand Airband’s reach, exploring a wider pipeline of projects and new countries where we haven’t yet worked.”

According to Microsoft, Airband has helped connect nine million people in Africa to date across the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria. By the end of 2025, it aims to have helped connect 100 million people on the continent.

Microsoft said the partnership with Viasat builds on the relationship its data center business already has with the company — in addition to other satellite operators — via Azure Space, which aims to integrate terrestrial and space networks to enable global cloud access with low latency.

Space sensors are DoD’s multi orbit plan for new constellations of missile-warning and missile-tracking satellites. But there is yet no consensus around a plan for how the Pentagon will transition from current legacy satellites to a much more distributed architecture of satellites in multiple orbits, argues a new report by the Aerospace Corp.

The report, “Fiscal Year 2023 U.S. Space Force Budget Request: Missile Warning & Tracking Looms Large,” was released Sept. 20 by the Aerospace Center for Space Policy and Strategy. 

About $4.7 billion of the Space Force’s $24.7 billion budget request for 2023 is for new this space sensors project which includes missile-defense satellites that the Pentagon argues is needed to detect and track advanced hypersonic missile and glide vehicles developed by Russia and China.  

“Over the next few years, the missile warning and tracking programs will weigh heavily in debates about the future of U.S. space systems,” said Sam Wilson, senior policy analyst at Aerospace and author of the report. 

The Space Force budget projections lay out a future architecture of about 135 low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites and 16 medium Earth orbit (MEO) satellites that would work in concert through an integrated ground system. 

The 2023 budget “funds efforts across all orbits, with the bulk of the funding being in geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) and polar,” Wilson wrote. These include the Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next-Gen OPIR) program with five satellites — three in GEO and two polar satellites.

This budget “ushers in a new approach for missile warning and missile tracking,” said Wilson.  Given their size and the number of stakeholders reliant on these programs, he noted, Congress could raise questions about how these complex programs are being orchestrated. 

“Although Congress seems supportive of moving to LEO and MEO, there seems to be a lack of consensus on how quickly, and in what manner, DoD should transition to this new architecture,” Wilson noted. 

Senate appropriators seem to want to accelerate this transition, he pointed out, cutting some of the funding for next-generation GEO and polar-orbiting systems and nearly doubling the funding for LEO and MEO. 

The multi-orbit approach, the report said, “may also be a harbinger for broader emphasis within the Pentagon to develop resilient and defendable architectures for other critical space missions. Such emphasis, if it materializes into more expensive and ambitious programs, could present significant budgetary pressures that DoD will need to balance, which could trigger additional scrutiny and concern from Congress.”

Deconflicting missile-defense projects has been a congressional priority amid concerns that agencies are developing systems in isolation and not coordinating efforts. Last week the Space Systems Command, the Space Development Agency and the Missile Defense Agency announced they formed a new program office to synchronize satellite procurements.

Space logistics company D-Orbit announced a $2 million contract June 9 with the European Space Agency to upgrade production of its ION Satellite Carrier.

It was the latest win for the Italian firm with ambitious plans to offer a wide range of satellite services from active debris removal to space-based cloud computing.

Under the contract, ESA will fund D-Orbit’s campaign to improve the performance and reduce the cost of ION, the vehicle that transports cubesats and microsatellites from the point where a large rocket drops them off to their desired orbital destinations.

The growing popularity of rideshare flights like SpaceX Transporter missions is expected to spur demand for last-mile delivery. Euroconsult’s Space Logistics Markets report released in May forecasts 120 orbital transfer vehicles in operation by 2031.

About a dozen companies around the world are designing, developing and testing orbital transfer vehicles.

D-Orbit first demonstrated its last-mile delivery service in 2020. Over six flights, D-Orbit has transported more than 80 payloads in orbit, including 60 satellites deployed from ION and additional payloads hosted onboard.

Spaceflight Inc.’s first Sherpa LTE, launched in June 2021, also used an electric propulsion system to execute maneuvers and change altitudes working under a customer’s direction. The Seattle company declined to name the customer or provide additional details.

D-Orbit also maintains a line of products and services for other space companies.

Beyond Gravity, for example, formerly called Ruag Space, awarded D-Orbit a contract in April to supply carbon fiber-reinforced polymer tools and metallic structural components for ESA’s Space Rider. Thales Alenia Space is the prime contractor for Space Rider, an uncrewed laboratory designed to house technology demonstrations and science experiments in low-Earth orbit, before returning payloads to Earth. The Space Rider vehicle will then be refurbished, refueled and loaded for another flight.

The Space Rider mission “is perfectly in line with our vision to enable profitable business and human expansion in a sustainable space,” Renato Panesi, D-Orbit founder and chief commercial officer, told SpaceNews.

Over the long term, D-Orbit seeks to dominate the space logistics market.

“The idea is to take care of the customer’s journey from mission analysis to launch to decommissioning,” Panesi said. “It’s about having your assets correctly positioned when you want.”

D-Orbit intends to offer satellite services including inspection, refueling and small repairs.

“Maybe we can consider active debris removal as part of the service, today in low-Earth orbit, later on in geostationary orbit,” Panesi said. “In the far future, we do for see potential markets for recycling and in-orbit manufacturing.”

In the meantime, D-Orbit is laying the groundwork for a space-based cloud computing business.

“If we manage to have an ION equipped with its own cloud computing suite and intersatellite links, we can have a small constellation of nodes processing information,” Panesi said.

D-Orbit worked with Sweden’s Unibap to demonstrate a radiation-tolerant computing module onboard ION in 2021.

“One of the things we’re going to test later this year or the beginning of next year will be the intersatellite links, both optical and radio frequencies,” Panesi said.

On the financial side, D-Orbit is preparing to merge with Breeze Holdings Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC. The merger is expected to conclude in the third quarter of this year.

While SPACs are not as popular in the space sector as they were in 2021, Panesi remains confident the deal will benefit D-Orbit.

“On one side, we are securing capital,” Panesi said. “On the other side, we have a valuable partner to help us enter, one step at a time, the big U.S. market.”

D-Orbit employs about 200 people, with the majority based near the firm’s Como, Italy headquarters. In addition, D-Orbit has offices in Portugal, the United Kingdom and Falls Church, Virginia.


LEO satellite broadband connectivity’s demand has been ever increasing. As of 2020, there were one billion broadband subscriptions including Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), cable, or fiber-optic broadband services. Telecoms have been working to replace low-speed DSL broadband with fiber-optic broadband service. In 2020 alone, there were 42 million fiber-optic broadband net additions.

Cable network operators also continue to upgrade the networks to DOCSIS 3.1 to support Gigabit speed broadband access. Despite the advancements in different broadband technologies, only around half of total households in the world are connected to a type of fixed broadband. Among the households which are not connected to fixed broadband access, mobile network is the primary connectivity for internet access since many populations use internet via their mobile phones. Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) broadband services using mobile networks and proprietary technologies have also been filling the broadband gap across different markets. Satellite has been an important technology to provide broadband in remote areas where it is challenging to deploy other terrestrial broadband networks.

The COVID-19 pandemic spotlighted the importance of broadband connectivity in both social and economic aspects of work, learning, communication, shopping, and healthcare. Although network operators have managed the traffic surge contributed by home broadband networks well, governments around the world have witnessed that populations without efficient connectivity faced challenges to navigate through the pandemic. While households in the areas with limited fixed infrastructure need to rely on mobile network to access internet, it should be noted that 8 percent of the world’s population is still outside the mobile internet coverage according to the GSA. There is clearly a digital divide across different markets which needs to be addressed.

The Role of Satellite Broadband

Internet access via satellite networks has been a crucial solution for use cases such as emergency response, maritime, aviation, and broadband access in remote areas. Geostationary Orbit (GEO) satellite systems are the primary platform to provide broadband service, but only at a limited speed, between 5 Megabytes per second to 100 Megabytes per second, and with high latency, around 500 milliseconds, compared to other broadband platforms. Hardware and installation cost, usually above $300 is relatively high for consumers in emerging markets to get satellite broadband service. It is estimated that satellite market is providing around 3.5 million subscriptions worldwide as of today with the highest subscriber concentration in North America, followed by Europe.

Although satellite networks cover almost everywhere around the world, high cost of receiver hardware, low speed, and high latency have been a barrier for satellite broadband services to gain mass adoption. Recent Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite development by SpaceX, OneWeb, and Amazon’s Project Kuiper are expected to change market dynamics since shorter distance from Earth’s surface enables LEO satellites to support latency as low as 30 milliseconds.

What is the Outlook for LEO Satellite Broadband in 2022?

LEO satellite broadband is still a niche market. According to SpaceX, which launched LEO broadband service Starlink in late 2020, it has now achieved around a 90,000-user base. It recently gained license to operate StarLink service in Mexico and is now trying to secure license to operate in India, one of the markets with lowest fixed broadband penetration. OneWeb, another LEO platform which aims to enter broadband market, has launched over 300 satellites in late 2021 after securing agreement with AT&T to provide broadband connectivity for AT&T business customers. Amazon provide a new progress regarding Project Kuiper as they announced that they have secured up to 83 launches from three commercial space companies—ArianespaceBlue Origin, and United Launch Alliance (ULA)—to provide heavy-lift capacity for the program..

Although LEO platforms supports low latency, high terminal cost is possibly a key challenge to expanding the customer base. Considering majority of the market opportunity existing in emerging market, heavily subsidized terminal cost of $500 is beyond the reach of most consumers. Despite attempts by industry players to reduce terminal cost, the current adoption rate which needs only low hardware volume, terminal cost deduction cannot be done enough yet. Furthermore, LEO platforms face inevitable competition from terrestrial broadband platforms. Especially the expansion of LTE networks and future 5G roll outs in emerging markets will continue to compete against LEO broadband services. Due to mass adoption, terrestrial networks tend to achieve faster ecosystem development which brings wider choice of hardware and software and lower cost to develop cost per user.

LEO platforms will need other players coming into the market soon since competition is expected to increase adoption rate and create a force to lower the terminal cost. Considering current market dynamics, there is a potential to of LEO broadband market to grow in 2022, however at the limited pace. LEO broadband services are likely to gain subscriber base from both consumer and business segments in advanced markets. However, business and government user base are likely to be major drivers of LEO broadband market in emerging markets. Initial target of LEO platforms is not to replace wired broadband services, but to connect the unconnected population. To achieve their goal, the ability to support enough capacity in targeted market is crucial. As competition arrives, improvements in hardware cost and features are expected to speed up accelerating the adoption in the residential market in the next few years.