Israel-made expandable nanosatellite to launch on Russian rocket Friday

Space-tech startup NSLComm’s technology is said to allow 100x faster connectivity thanks to folding antennas and expanding main reflector

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

NSLComm, a space-tech startup that has developed a nano-satellite that expands in space to boost connectivity capacity (YouTube screenshot)
NSLComm, a space-tech startup that has developed a nano-satellite that expands in space to boost connectivity capacity (YouTube screenshot)

NSLComm, an Israel-based aerospace tech startup that developed a nanosatellite that expands in space to boost connectivity capacity, will be launching its first satellite, the NSLSat-1, on Friday, as part of the payload of a Soyuz rocket that will take it into space.

The satellite has already been installed onto the launch vehicle, which is expected to blast off at 1:42 a.m. ET on July 5 at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Far Eastern Russia, the startup said in a statement Wednesday.

The firm, based in Airport City, is part of a fast-growing sector of the aerospace technologies, the so-called “NewSpace” industry, that is pioneering privately backed spaceflight.

NSLComm designed fabric-like, flexible dish antennas that expand in space once the nanosatellites are in position. This allows greater bandwidth and high communication capacity, making them up to 100 times faster than the current best-performing nanosatellites, the company said in a statement. They cost 10 times less than larger satellites, the firm said.

During launch, the antennas are folded into the satellite, allowing it to be compact in volume and mass. Once deployed into orbit, these antennas open up and the main reflector expands to the desired diameter. Ground operators are able to control the antennas from afar, enabling them to focus supply directly on specific areas where there is demand for increased satellite bandwidth.

NSLComm’s technology is “the only solution that can bring high-speed broadband connectivity to and from small terminals,” the statement said, allowing the satellites to be used for a variety of purposes, including agriculture, mining, oil & gas, shipping and government. The technology can also support large quantities of data for internet and video at costs “that are significantly lower” than what is being offered by current satellite communication technology, the statement said.

The satellites can be launched using existing rocket launchers for geostationary (GEO) satellites, which orbit the earth directly over the equator, and low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites, the statement said.

Raz Itzhaki, co-founder and CEO of NSLComm, said in the statement, “Our technology represents one of the biggest leaps in satellite antenna performance-to-weight ratios and, with this launch, we are on a mission to prove that high-speed satellite communications can be done faster, cheaper and more effectively than it has been to date.”

The NSLSat-1 nano-satellite developed by space-tech startup NSLComm is installed onto a Soyuz rocket that is scheduled to blast off on July 5, 2019 (Courtesy)

The company is initially targeting government markets, the makers of Internet of Things technologies and the automotive markets, worth an estimated $50 billion annually, the firm said.

Once in space, NSLSat-1 will be tested with a number of tier-one partners from across the automotive, telecom and travel industries. Several weeks ago, NSLComm signed an agreement with Amazon Web Services for the use of AWS Ground Station, a network of ground stations for satellites.

The company’s current customer base includes satellite and spacecraft developers and manufacturers, satellite owners, and service providers.

NSLComm expects to launch 30 satellites by 2021 and hundreds by 2023, enabling its network to provide high-speed communications worldwide for its customers, the statement said.

The NSLSat-1 nano-satellite has has fabric-like, flexible dish antennas that expand in space (NSLComm)

NSLComm’s investors include Jerusalem Venture Partners, Jerusalem based OurCrowd, El Al’s Cockpit Innovation unit, and Liberty Technology Venture Capital. The company is also supported by the Israel Space Agency and Kodem Growth Partners in New York City.

The firm was founded in 2009 by Raz Itzhaki-Tamir, Danny Spirtus and Daniel Rockberger and has raised some $9.4 million to date, according to Start-Up Nation Central, a nonprofit that tracks the industry.

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