Astranis satellite built for Alaska completes critical TVAC test on first attempt
Astranis has announced the successful completion of thermal vacuum (TVAC) testing for its first commercial MicroGEO satellite which is set to launch into orbit over Alaska in spring of next year. The satellite is earmarked for Pacific Dataport Inc. (PDI), a satellite middle mile provider headquartered in Anchorage, Alaska.
“Successfully completing TVAC is a huge milestone for any spacecraft, much less doing so on the first try,” said John Gedmark, CEO and co-founder of Astranis. “It is a testament to the experience, creativity, and attention to detail of the Astranis engineering team and means we’re on schedule to bring affordable broadband access to the underserved people of Alaska starting in 2022.”
TVAC is a rigorous testing process that simulates the extreme conditions of space. By placing the satellite inside a highly specialized test chamber — where temperatures can range from -190C to +150C and pressures can drop as low as 2e-5 torr — spacecraft performance can be assessed in an environment that approximates being more than 20,000 miles above the Earth. The Astranis spacecraft was exposed to four thermal cycles with the longest cold exposure lasting just under 48 hours and the longest hot exposure lasting roughly 24 hours.
This critical milestone follows the successful launch of a subscale demonstration satellite to orbit, the successful completion of TVAC testing of a qualification vehicle, and the successful completion of critical design review. It was previously announced that the satellite was in its final stage of assembly after a successful end-to-end payload demonstration that showed results above spec.
The Astranis MicroGEO satellite for PDI is set to launch as a rideshare onboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in spring 2022. When the new satellite enters service, it will triple the available satellite broadband capacity in Alaska while providing broadband access at one-third the cost of existing services.
“There are people living all over the state of Alaska in some of the harshest conditions possible who need fast, reliable, affordable broadband internet access just as much as someone living in a major city,” said Chuck Schumann, CEO, Pacific Dataport Inc. “Connecting Alaska is what we started PDI to do, and we are now closer than ever to fulfilling this promise with the first satellite built for our home state.”
The Alaska-bound satellite from Astranis has also secured a new groundbreaking insurance policy. Known as 'all perils' insurance, it covers launch plus the first year of operations on orbit. The policy was put in place following extensive due diligence from the satellite industry’s top insurance underwriters. Insurance broker Willis Towers Watson facilitated the placement of the policy.
“This is the first time a new satellite from a new space company has ever secured this kind of insurance policy,” said Gedmark. “It’s an incredible endorsement of the quality of our satellites, and a vote of confidence in our technology.”