Astra Space, a small launch vehicle company, applied to the Federal Communications Commission on November 4 to install a constellation of over 13,600 satellites for broadband services. According to Astra, the constellation will provide services at the V-band frequencies, with 13,620 satellites launched in three phases into low Earth orbit to give global coverage. Other frequencies could be used by the satellite, according to the business, but those functions were not included in this application.
In their application, the business stated, “The Astra Constellation would offer worldwide secure, high-bandwidth connection to facilitate communications services, natural resource, and environmental applications and national security missions.” “Astra is well-positioned to create this project and to incorporate fresh space-centered services, incorporating communications solutions, while ensuring a secure space environment, employing spectrum efficiently, and without causing severe radiofrequency interference, given the financing guaranteed through its latest public offering, vertically integrated deployment capability, and the space systems design and operations experience.”
The constellation’s first phase would consist of a single plane of about 40 satellites orbiting at 700 kilometers altitude in an equatorial orbit. “This Phase is meant to allow Astra to launch continuous service in a trial market as quickly as possible, benefit from initial operations and consumer input, and iteratively enhance all components of the service to better satisfy customer expectations,” according to the business.
In the second phase, 2,296 satellites would be launched into the sun-synchronous as well as mid-inclination orbits at elevations of 690 to 700 kilometers. As a result, the organization would be able to give global service. A third stage, with 11,284 satellites, was going to provide additional capacity in orbits ranging from 380 to 400 kilometers.
Each satellite will include 2 gimbaled parabolic antennas and a “unique” phased-array antenna featuring an effective aperture of 20 cm. For maneuvering and deorbiting, the spaceship will be fitted with electric propulsion systems. Apollo Fusion, which is a manufacturer of electric propulsion technology for satellites, was acquired by Astra earlier this year.
The size of the satellites was not disclosed in the application, but it was mentioned that the satellites, that will be constructed in-house by Astra, can be deployed in groups of at least two on the company’s rockets. Over the next few years, the payload of such rockets will be increased, with an aim of 500 kilos. However, Astra stated that it is “willing and able to use third party launch operators in part or in full for Constellation deployment.”
Astra had kept its intentions for a broadband satellite network a secret until now. It did declare earlier this year that it will enter the satellite business, producing satellite buses that could transport a broad range of payloads for clients and launch on its rockets, but it didn’t mention any plans to develop its constellation.
The filing was among the lodged with the FCC on November 4, a three-month deadline established by the FCC for the latest round of V-band satellite system processing. Hughes Network Systems, Inmarsat, and Telesat also submitted V-band satellite constellation applications, although none were as large as Astra’s.