This startup's aim: Net connectivity from the heavens

This startup's aim: Net connectivity from the heavens

Revolutionising telecom

This startup's aim: Net connectivity from the heavens

 Even as companies like Facebook and Google are making efforts to try and spread the reach of the Internet via solar-powered drones and balloons, a startup incubated at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) is working to provide seamless Internet connectivity from outer space by 2020. 

“By 2020, we want to launch 150 microsatellites that will provide broadband Internet connectivity. We want to initially launch 10 satellites,” said Prasad H L Bhat, chairman and chief technology officer, Astrome.

Started by former students of IISc, Astrome has its office at IISc’s entrepreneurship cell, the Society for Innovation and Development (SID). Neha Satak, CEO and founder, Astrome, completed her Masters in aerospace engineering from IISc, while Bhat did his PhD at the institute. 

The first batch of satellites is scheduled for launch in 2019 and they will form a mini-constellation in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). By 2020, more satellites will be launched to form a constellation of high-capacity satellites that will beam down Internet connectivity to earth.

The broadband service will be available for private individuals as well as for companies and businesses. 

“We are thinking of a package of around 50 Mbps for individuals and 400 Mbps for companies,” he said. The rates will be nominally higher, if not almost the same, as those provided by telecom companies. The service will be based on the direct to home (DTH) model and will require only an antenna and a receiver. 

The technology, once successful, is sure to revolutionise the entire telecommunication services model and Internet industry. 

Explaining how this will take place, Bhat said presently, Internet services are provided by laying fibre optics infrastructure that takes a great deal of time and cost. 

“Rural and semi-urban areas still lack Internet connectivity. This technology can change all that. It can help businesses located in far-flung areas prosper,” he said. Besides India, Astrome has set its sight on providing services to other countries in South Asia, East Asia and Latin America.

Prasad H L Bhat, chairman and chief technology officer, Astrome: Rural and semi-urban areas still lack Internet connectivity. This technology can change all that. It can help businesses located in far-flung areas prosper.


Technology to remove space debris

Swiss scientists have offered to give Isro a demonstration of a technology that would help them remove space debris. 

The CleanSpace One, as the project has been called, will intercept, capture and deorbit the 1-kg satellite launched by the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in 2009.

The project will form a baseline for the upcoming Active Debris Removal efforts in Switzerland and elsewhere.

Space archaeology

Retracting space junk and other man-made space artefacts as a means of preservation of a space heritage and culture is called ‘Space Archaeology’. 

This is something that Dr Alice Gorman, expert on space archaeology and senior lecturer, Flinders University, Australia, has specialised in. She gave a talk on the issue in the city recently. 

“When we talk about space exploration, it is usually Nasa or other bigger space faring countries that are highlighted. However, there are a number of smaller countries that have their own history in space exploration,” she said.


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