The startup’s pop-up antennas decrease the worth of satellite tv for pc communications
The NewSpace trend is reaching new heights – the development of smaller payloads, launch vehicles and devices – all designed to offer innovative solutions for the next frontier. However, satellites are particularly expensive due to the size required for their dishes, as well as expensive launch vehicles due to their heavy weight. Israeli space technology startup NSLComm, located near Ben-Gurion Airport, has approached this problem in a completely new way: It is developing nanosatellites whose shoebox size allows them to use their large pop-up trays later in space, reducing both weight and size be, cost and more. Co-founder and CEO Raz Itzhaki, whose company launched its first prototype in July 2019 and is currently working with a number of investors and companies, spoke to CTech about how low-earth nanosatellites can open up a whole new world of agritech applications to broadband and more.
“Most people rely on cell phones as a means of communication, but cell phones are not the only option. We can communicate through satellites, they are ubiquitous – they provide worldwide coverage, help people communicate anywhere and everywhere without torrential infrastructure, which can cause various problems, such as: B. installing fiber optic cables under oceans or the need to rely on cell towers. Itzhaki explained. “While these options are inexpensive, it would be much more elegant to communicate directly across the room without poking fibers into the floor. I believe everyone on earth has the right to be connected to broadband and we hope our technology can make this possible. ”
Raz Itzhaki, CEO of NSLComm
The cost of communications satellites is quite high as they require large, expensive communications dishes in space, and that is the main factor driving costs up today, he explained. NSLComm believes that all of this can be overcome by minimizing the weight and volume of the satellites, achieving higher performance by flying them in low-earth orbit, using expandable antennas that allow for more impressive bandwidth capabilities, and much more more.
How can NSLComm’s satellites offer superior bandwidth capability?
“They don’t rely on cell towers, so they offer superior performance. Our nanosatellites weigh around 8 kg and can transmit data at up to 2 gigabytes per second, which typically requires a satellite the size of a washing machine that weighs around 100 kg, ”he said. Because the cost of this type of communication is ten times lighter and smaller, it is on par with the cost of fiber or other competing technologies and could be a competitive alternative in both populated and remote areas.
NSLComm’s satellite antennas are emerging in space, and the FlexoSub patent is a “smart” sub-reflector that allows the antenna to compensate for imperfections in the shape of the reflector shell and alter the ground patterns while it hovers. “It allows us to control the satellite’s footprint and focus on a specific area or send a larger beam to allow communication over a much larger area,” he said.
“This maintains robust communication performance and allows them to have the same capabilities as larger dishes,” he said, adding that because of their great weight and size, satellites are usually deployed individually and their launch is an added complicating factor. “About 90% of the satellite’s volume has to hold the dish during launch and is slowly released into space because it is a very harsh environment. Imagine not having to take a bowl out into space, but instead being able to fold the bowl into a satellite so that it takes up very little volume and doesn’t unfold until it reaches space. That’s what our technology does, and it allows us to use smaller satellites, which reduces costs, ”he said.
NSLComm nanosatellites’ shells retain the ability to surface in space, reducing size and cost
NSLComm’s nanosatellites are an anomaly – they’re small and have large shells. This in turn enables them to be launched as a whole constellation of satellites rather than individually. These versions are cheaper to build because they can achieve roughly a 90% higher profit margin and become affordable enough to be competitive with fiber optic or cellular communications options.
Satellites that fly in a low orbit can easily fly over remote areas or areas without cellular infrastructure, provide communication and provide solutions from Agritech to IoT and broadband services. NSLComm’s satellites have minimal latency, which means that their computerized networks are optimized to process very high volumes of data with minimal delay and can offer higher bandwidth than traditional geosynchronous satellites (GEO) that fly in orbit. The company’s LEO constellation flies fairly close above the Earth’s atmosphere – about 400 km to 700 km above the globe.
The company’s satellites are in low-earth orbit, which enables a more robust high-speed broadband connection (Figure). Photo: Shutterstock
How is NSLComm’s technology different from other Israeli space companies?
“We belong exclusively to the NewSpace arena, and I think Israel has phenomenal experience and success stories in space,” he said. Itzhaki is closely associated with the nanosatellites sector, from initiating and leading the nanosatellites division at Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to courses in space technology in Israel and the USA and the establishment of the Israeli Nanosatellite Association (INSA). “I believe what is limiting Israeli industry today is the high cost, and NSLComm has the ability to bring high-performance missions into space at a lower cost while taking advantage of the vast offerings of the NewSpace industry. We are more agile than other companies, ”he added.
A wealth of advanced applications
The nanosatellites deploy large antennas in space that enable sensitive measurements from terrestrial devices, such as those that use Internet of Things (IoT) technology and can be operated in space. “About 90% of agricultural land is not covered by communications, and we can cross these areas with our satellites from space to connect directly to tiny sensors.”
In an initiative, the startup worked with the regional council of Ramat Hanegev and Yuma, Arizona, to monitor agricultural areas in the desert and provide communication. NSLComm has also partnered with York Systems in Denver to help reach more customers looking to send payloads aboard their nanosatellites. The Colorado manufacturing facility can provide Israeli services to both government and commercial companies.
NSLComm’s satellites are the size of a shoebox but offer the same features as larger versions
Partnering, not competing
NSLComm does not intend to compete with SpaceX’s Starlink program, which provides broadband services to the globe, but hopes to offer a wide variety of payload capabilities to a variety of companies. “There are currently 120 satellite constellations being created by various companies for IoT, imaging, communication or weather tracking purposes. We view all of these companies as potential partners, not as competitors. We deliver the technology while businesses benefit from lower startup and deployment costs. “Our business model is focused on partnering with other companies,” he said.
Future financial goals
The company raised $ 3 million in a Series A round in the first quarter of 2016 and $ 9 million in a Series B round between 2018 and 2019 from Jerusalem Venture Partners, Liberty Media Technology Ventures, OurCrowd, El Al and others. In addition, NSLComm receives support from the Israel Space Agency and the Israel Innovation Authority. While the company has not yet gone public, Itzhaki believes the space technology market is particularly promising for young startups.
“Today more than ever, investors value the opportunities that space presents. However, the current focus is on how more and more intelligence and value can be packed into smaller packages as we begin the next chapter of our space odyssey. NSLComm’s remarkable pop-up antenna technology provides the highest possible bandwidth and communication capabilities in the smallest package, exactly what today’s Guardians of the Galaxy are looking for, ”commented Jon Medved, CEO of OurCrowd.
That said, being an early stage startup working in the deep tech sector is not an easy task, and it is extremely difficult to produce a proof of concept. For the future, Itzhaki believes that NSLComm will come a long way. “I expect our company will participate in some satellite constellations and help others by providing high-speed communications. At the same time, I hope to create robust production capacities for nanosatellites in Israel. We are building our nanosatellites here, but Israel can play a more important role, and I want NSLComm to do a part in bringing mass production to Israel. ”