Countdown to the Anuvu Constellation

March 6, 2023

In early 2024, we’ll launch Anuvu’s first MicroGEO satellites, giving our airline and cruise customers more capacity and flexibility. Let the countdown begin.

We’re taking a new kind of satellite into space this year.

Anuvu is launching our first two MicroGEO satellites from Astranis Space Technologies—and the countdown has begun. Anuvu will become a satellite operator after many years as the world’s largest lessor of geostationary satellite capacity in aviation connectivity. Even after we deploy the Anuvu Constellation, we’ll add this new capacity to our current leased inventory —54 satellites from 11 providers—to keep pace with customer growth.

Because of our role providing connectivity to people on the move—on aircraft, cruise ships, oil rigs, superyachts and more—we need satellite capacity that’s targeted and highly flexible. With technology changing at a rapid pace, it's critical for operators to be able to secure affordable capacity quickly to meet the demands of people on the move.

This makes the Astranis MicroGEO satellite well suited to our customers’ needs: it helps peel off mobility data from large GEO satellites mostly focused on fixed, land-based communications into a separate, more discrete platform with far more efficient economics. It’s also part of our “Bridge to LEO” strategy which provides clients a step-change between today and future networks by adopting flexible architectures.

“Because of these satellites’ compelling economics, and their quick entry into service, our customers will gain high-performance connectivity at a fraction of the cost of traditional GEO satellites," said Mike Pigott, Anuvu EVP Connectivity.

Despite the pandemic and mass disruptions to supply chains that have slowed production cycles around the world, we’re still on target for the Anuvu Constellation launch and expect to have both satellites in service in the fourth quarter.

What About LEO?
In the future, Anuvu customers will be served by a broad mix of satellites and orbits, both in GEO and LEO, with some we own and others on which we lease capacity. The satellite’s orbit or frequency band won’t matter—but the market will require an “all of the above” approach to serve customers’ needs.On the LEO front, we maintain strong ties with Telesat and other companies developing low earth orbit constellations: OneWeb, SpaceX, and Amazon’s Project Kuiper.

“We want a base performance level, and the ability to manage peak loads everywhere in the network. The question is what is the ideal mix of LEO, GEO, leased and owned capacity?” Pigott says. “We think any provider that locks themselves in a particular technology won’t fare well in the future. That’s why we’re building a mix of technologies and will adjust it as the market develops.”

What’s a MicroGEO?
Astranis’s MicroGEO satellites operate in the same region as other commercial satellites used for tasks such as television broadcasting, weather forecasting and climate science. The big difference is their size and cost: At 400 kilograms (882 pounds) MicroGEO satellites are radically smaller and more affordable than the behemoths that populate geostationary orbits today.

“With a small satellite, we can build them much faster and at a much lower cost than anyone has ever built a satellite of this type before,” Astranis CEO John Gedmark said in a recent video.

Compared to their larger GEO peers, a MicroGEO satellite can be deployed far more quickly—typically around 18 months from order to launch—giving customers greater financial and operational flexibility. This time frame for a GEO satellite was “unheard of in the past,” says Pigott. Many large GEO satellites take five years or more to be ready for launch.

What’s Next?

We have completed our manufacturing readiness review and Astranis has begun assembly of both satellites. Telesat’s work to construct ground infrastructure for the Anuvu Constellation also began late in 2022, and we’ll be announcing our baseband provider in the coming weeks. In March we’re attending the 2023 Satellite Show in Washington DC to discuss Anuvu’s MicroGEO constellation and our strategy of planning for a future hybrid network of GEO and LEO connectivity.

In just a few short months, the satellites will be stowed for a cross-country drive from the Astranis factory in San Francisco to Cape Canaveral, Florida, where they’ll join two other MicroGEO customers’ payloads. SpaceX will then integrate the four satellites on a Falcon 9 rocket for launch.

“Things are looking good for an on-schedule launch and entry to service late this year,” said Tim Southard, Anuvu VP Technical Projects.

These first two satellites in the Anuvu constellation will complement our overall capacity and allow greater flexibility in serving our aviation and cruise customers’ needs. We plan to expand the Anuvu Constellation over time with additional MicroGEO satellites, in concert with client needs.

Follow Along
We’re off to space this year and will have numerous updates about the journey with new material on our dedicated Anuvu Constellation site, on social media, and with some exciting new videos. The countdown to launch day has begun. Please follow along.