The data-relay constellation of SpaceLink is being expanded with smaller satellites

SpaceLink revealed plans on February 24 to launch an inaugural constellation of tinier satellites than previously envisaged, in order to reduce costs and accelerate the introduction of data-relay services.

SpaceLink Chief Executive Officer Dave Bettinger informed SpaceNews, “We’re putting a group of smaller satellites into our constellation roadmap.” “With less capacity, we’ll be able to maintain the entire capabilities of what we were deploying previously.”

SpaceLink is to invest $240 million in its inaugural constellation, down from $750 million in its earlier proposal. As per a February 24 press release from SpaceLink parent firm Australia’s Electro Optic Systems Holdings, the business will begin providing service in early 2024, rather than mid-2024 as previously scheduled.

SpaceLink must begin delivering satellite communications services using satellites in MEO (medium Earth orbit) by June 2024, according to the requirements of its FCC license. There was a chance that the McLean, Virginia-based business might miss the deadline because of the big satellites it ordered from OHB Systems AG.

“We’re more certain that we’ll make our FCC date” under the new plan, said Tony Colucci, SpaceLink’s chief strategy and commercial officer.

SpaceLink hasn’t chosen a maker for its smaller satellites but has limited the field to two. According to the news release, contracts for the satellites, which will be around half the size of the company’s final constellation of 1,000-kg spacecraft, will be given in April.

Despite the modification in its inaugural constellation, SpaceLink is committed to developing a constellation in MEO to transmit data to and from low-Earth-orbiting spacecraft. SpaceLink wants to add new generations of satellites every two to three years, according to Colucci.

SpaceLink is still working with OHB in an expanded engineering phase to include changes in the bigger SpaceLink satellites, which will have both optical and RF communications links like the original constellation.

Executives at SpaceLink expect a high demand for communications services from a variety of potential clients, encompassing constellations of commercial Earth observation satellites.

“We’ve arrived at a great time since these models of business have been proved, and now corporations are looking for new methods to get their data to the ground,” Bettinger explained. “We’ll arrive at just the appropriate time.”

Commercial human spaceflight flights are also becoming more common. Bettinger stated that those flights will require continuous connectivity in order to operate securely.

EOS, SpaceLink’s parent business, bought Silicon Valley startup Audacy in the year 2020, gaining around 21 GHz of significant radio frequency spectrum for the Australian company. “Given increasing traffic and demand for sophisticated satellite services,” the news release stated, “it is vital to meet the FCC target date and safeguard access to the broad bandwidth afforded by the spectrum rights.”

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