Austin space tech firm CesiumAstro sends its first satellite into orbit
Austin-based space communications company CesiumAstro has gone into space for the first time since launching its experimental technology on Monday.
CesiumAstro, which was founded in 2017, builds communication technologies for space and air platforms. Its hardware and software products are designed to be used for a variety of commercial and satellite communications needs.
The company’s technology launched on Monday as a secondary payload for the Atlas V rocket, which delivered NASA’s Landsat 9 into orbit after launch from California’s Vandenberg Space Force base. The mission had previously been postponed due to a lack of liquid oxygen and was further repulsed by strong winds.
Now in orbit, its own hardware and software will allow CesiumAstro and its customers to experiment with electronically controlled, multi-beam technology with active phase arrays. The two-satellite system will sit in low-Earth orbit and will allow the company to conduct trade and defense experiments until 2026.
Active phase technology of arrays electronically controls beams of radio waves that are used to communicate and transfer data to target destinations.
CesiumAstro CEO Shay Sabripur, a veteran of the space industry, said he had seen dozens of launches, but Monday was particularly significant. The successful launch was the culmination of years of work, starting with a pen drawing he made in January 2017.
Sabripour watched a live broadcast of the launch at Bee Cave’s headquarters, accompanied by company staff. Sabripur said the launch was the most exciting to watch in his career.
“It’s an exciting day,” Sabripur said, adding that it was made possible by hard work and innovation from everyone on the team.
The mission, called Cesium Mission 1, is the first in a planned series of small satellite missions for the company. The technology for the first mission included two of the company’s 6U CubeSats, which include active phased array communication systems and intersatellite connections.
The technology will be used as a test site for CesiumAstro and its customers, which include NASA, the US Department of Defense and the US Navy. The tests will last from seconds to years, according to the company.
One of the company’s tests will involve working in partnership with the DoD Defense Innovation Division and will demonstrate a direct connection to tactical terrestrial terminals with lower latency, which reduces communication lag.
The communication systems are equipped with software-controlled systems that CesiumAstro will be able to update and adjust as needed.
The technology has been used primarily in radar and other defense technologies, but CesiumAsto aims to expand its use in telecommunications.
The technology is designed to be faster, more efficient and to be used in communication systems for satellites, unmanned autonomous vehicles, space rockets and other vehicles. Mission customers were able to purchase both standard and custom products for satellite or air missions.
“Through this new mission, CesiumAstro customers will benefit directly from the rich set of capabilities that APA’s communication and sensor systems can provide with a fully software-defined digital backup,” Sabripur said. “As our team delivers critical customers from the defense and commercial sectors, the breadth of our growing product offerings is now on display with our latest shipment of flight hardware.
The company is also developing ground stations in its offices in Texas and Colorado that will be able to communicate with future spacecraft. CesiumAstro also plans to launch another advanced satellite next year.
The mission is a milestone for CesiumAstro, which expands the team and capabilities of 80 people before the start. About 60 of its employees are based in Austin, and the company has an additional office in Broomfield, Colorado.
The company, which announced in June that it had expanded its plant into a new 29,000-square-foot space in Bee Cave, also plans to grow rapidly after launch. Currently, about 40 positions are listed for CesiumAstro, including positions in hardware and software engineering.