Space News - August 3, 2018

SINGAPORE and WASHINGTON — In medium Earth orbit, the only system providing satellite broadband today is SES Networks’ constellation of 16 O3b satellites. A British startup with its own 16-satellite constellation idea wants to change that.

Methera Global Communications estimates it needs $500 million to build and launch a constellation of satellites each equipped with 40 gigabits of capacity to beam down Ka-band connectivity to highly concentrated areas.

If successful, Methera will launch its first spacecraft in 2022, with service starting that same year.

Chris McIntosh, Methera’s CEO, left his position as CEO of Viasat UK last June to lead Methera, joining co-founders David Gilmore from GapSat and David Robson, who, according to LinkedIn, was the head of advanced payloads for 25 years at EADS Astrium (now Airbus Defence and Space). Gilmore and Robson started Methera in 2015. The startup currently consists of 10 people and is based in Harwell with several other British startups.

McIntosh describes “capacity density” as the key differentiator between his company’s proposed constellation and other emerging satellite systems.

“Instead of trying to put a thin veneer of coverage around the globe, what we’re doing is looking at a small number of targets where we will put lots of capacity,” he said.

Methera’s 700-kilogram satellites — the same mass as the first-generation O3b satellites — will hone capacity on extremely specific locations, targeting a small number of high-value customers, McIntosh said. Government and service provider customers will be able to “take a village or a town from no coverage to being able to provide for everyone as opposed to being able to provide for a few,” he said.

If Methera can hit the cost and performance targets it anticipates, its system should be “relatively competitive with the current most advanced geostationary satellites” like those of Viasat and Hughes, according to Armand Musey, president of the consulting firm Summit Ridge Group.