Low Earth Orbit Satellites Providing Global Connectivity

Mega constellations of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites will soon fill the skies with thousands of low-cost, high-tech spacecraft, offering broadband connectivity to places on earth where it is critically needed, beaming data, voice, and video to millions of people living in both populated and remote areas around the globe. Intelligently optimized beams will provide internet access for passengers on intercontinental flights and improved performance for applications ranging from gaming to tactical awareness.

This is our connected space future. Analog Devices (ADI) is working with customers such as CesiumAstro to make this vision a reality. By combining ADI’s 50-year heritage in space flight and semiconductor-based system-level solutions with Cesium’s phased array communication integration capabilities, the two companies are helping to enable more effective and efficient space communications networks to become a reality. Powering the new concept is a novel, off-the-shelf, building block approach, and making ADI’s technology accessible to startups and small players while encouraging disruptive innovation.

CesiumAstro At a Glance

Company: 

Developer of communication systems for satellites, UAVs, launch vehicles, and other space or airborne platforms.

Applications: 

Aerospace, defense, and global communications systems.

Problem: 

Develop low-cost, active phased array, and digital payload processing technologies

Challenge: 

Small technology startup in search of partners and funding. Be first to market with a full-stack product.

Need: 

A partner with deep domain knowledge and application expertise to supply system-level IC-based solutions. Industry partners and investors.

Goal: 

Develop and deploy “Nightingale 1” a complete, plug-and-play communication system at considerable cost savings over conventional geostationary satellite technology.


“Secure, reliable and high-throughput software-defined data links are the backbone of next-generation space and airborne systems.”

Shey Sabripour, CesiumAstro Founder and CEO


A Game-Changing Idea

CesiumAstro founder, Shey Sabripour, had a game-changing idea and a building block mentality. Make space communication satellites more affordable with a simple, yet elegant approach. Leverage phased array technology and Analog Devices’ commercial signal chain solutions to let clients tailor the satellite payload to their particular needs, quickly and easily: Pick Your Frequency -- steerable or fixed beam, Pick Your Radio Features -- bent-pipe or processed payload, Choose Your Digital Backend -- communications processor or router.

Shey is a satellite industry veteran with leadership success in the design, development, and execution of LEO and GEO (geostationary Earth orbit) telecommunication satellites, launch vehicles, and interplanetary space vehicles. However, Shey needed more than his game-changing concept to raise the funding to launch his new company, CesiumAstro. He needed funding and Analog Devices’ core technology.


Enter, Analog Garage

Many initiatives begin life in Analog Devices’ emerging technology incubator, the Analog Garage. The Garage focuses on a wide variety of technologies the company believes will have high potential and impact, but for which a commercial opportunity might not yet exist. Analog Devices’ internal engineering teams can propose ideas and receive funding and resources for early-stage R&D work. The Garage also invests in high-potential startups, which receive the funding, mentoring, and engineering support to help bring their ideas to market.

Shey was no stranger to Analog Devices, working with them repeatedly over his long career. “Shey looked at Analog Devices as a full solutions and systems problem-solver, not a component parts vendor. So, he and CesiumAstro got involved with us early on,” said David Argiropoulos, Regional Sales and South Central U.S. & Latin America for Analog Devices.

Analog Devices furnished CesiumAstro with cutting edge commercial technology and domain expertise in RF beamforming, amplification and software-defined transceivers they needed. Analog Garage and Analog Devices Ventures helped CesiumAstro acquire Series A funding in the amount of $12.4 million, from a variety of sources, including lead investor Airbus Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Franklin Venture Partners, Lavrock Ventures, Analog Ventures, and Honeywell Ventures.


CesiumAstro: Taking the Opposite Approach

Many companies often start with highly specialized custom technology and find ways to reduce cost. Analog Devices helped CesiumAstro take the opposite approach. CesiumAstro used ADI’s complete RF to bits product portfolio and developed a method to integrate it in a very unique way. David Argiropoulos said, “Analog Devices developed phased array beamforming and communications technologies and has deep expertise in the domain. If some other company developed it from the ground up for CesiumAstro, they would have needed a lot more development time.”.


Thinking Small

CesiumAstro has a size advantage -- they build small (Size, Weight, Power, and Cost – SwaPC). While small may not be an advantage on the basketball court, in the satellite world, the smaller the satellite’s components, the less it weighs, and the cheaper it is to launch into orbit – especially if it is a low Earth orbit vs. geostationary orbit.


LEOs vs. GEOs

Traditional Geostationary Satellites (GEOs) live in a stationary fixed orbit, approximately 22,300 miles (35,800 Kilometers) directly above the equator. GEOs can often require expensive, radiation-proof hardened components. They travel in the same direction as the rotation of the Earth, and at the same rate (approximately 1,000 mph), giving them the ability to stay in a stationary position relative to our planet and the millions of fixed-position satellite dishes on neighborhood rooftops.

Low Earth Orbit Satellites (LEOs) operate approximately 1,200 miles (2,000 km) or less in altitude and circle Earth every 128 minutes or less. LEOs tend to be smaller in size compared to GEOs and can often have reduced radiation requirements.


LEOs advantages and disadvantages in a nutshell:

  • Launch Costs – LEOs cost less to launch because of their smaller size and lower altitude
  • Latency – LEOs’ nearer to earth orbit contributes to lower latency for time-critical services such as gaming and electronic trading services
  • Manufacturing Costs – LEOs typically cost less to manufacture. As they are closer to earth, LEOs need less powerful amplifiers for the successful transmission of signals
  • Number of Satellites – although LEOs are less expensive to manufacture and launch, more of them are needed (than GEOs) to have effective communication operations
  • Number of Gateways – LEOs also require more gateway (than GEOs) on the ground to operate, driving up the total cost of the system

Phased Array Beamforming Technology for LEO

CesiumAstro is leveraging ADI’s product solution roadmap and developing an out-of-the-box ready active phased array with RF beamforming and embedded channelizer – digital baseband processor for operators of a network of thousands of low earth orbit (LEO) satellites. The technology used in LEOs allows for the steering of beams -- if you need more bandwidth in certain areas and less in others. By comparisons, traditional geosynchronous satellites broadcast a “big swath” of fixed beam bandwidth, and wherever it goes, it goes.

“For example, let’s pick Texas,” David Argiropoulos said. “There’s Dallas, Austin, Huston – big metropolitan areas. And there's a lot of dead space between these cities, where this fixed beam goes, and it’s just useless. Whereas, with active phased array technology, we can partition more bandwidth in Dallas, Austin, Houston, and less or none in Midland Odessa and other unpopulated areas. The cost savings and increased efficiency are significant.”


Nightingale 1: Built on Blocks

“Our Nightingale 1 product is built on a system of scalable and modular building blocks. A LEGO®-like software-defined architecture turns digital bits into steerable, shapeable radio frequency beams,” said Shey Sabripour, founder and CEO of CesiumAstro. CesiumAstro’s fully-integrated systems, based on Analog Devices’ components, require only a single power cable and digital connection to make a high-speed communication link.  Built with ADI’s commercial, off-the-shelf core technology, CesiumAstro’s products combine traditional aerospace reliability with modern technology on a low-cost industrial scale. The products provide a multi-beam phased array antenna, offering a wide choice of communication parameters and dynamic reconfigurability – a complete communications system, all in a fully customizable plug and play kit.

“Shey’s experience in the space industry enabled him to be one of the first to see what was possible by leveraging ADI’s RF-to-bits solutions into the emerging commercial space market. By working closely with our system applications team at Analog Devices, CesiumAstro was able to convert that vision to reality very quickly,” said Paul Ganci, Product Line Director for the Aerospace and Defense Group at Analog Devices.

Shey Sabripour said, “I’m not a rocket scientist. I just build electronics that will change the world.”


About Cesium

CesiumAstro Inc., founded in 2017, delivers highly reliable integrated communications systems for the satellite, UAV and other space and airborne markets. The company offers complete turn-key solutions, scalable for a full array of customers in the commercial, government, and military sectors. Current clients include NASA, U.S. Missile Defense Agency, Department of the Navy, DARPA, Northrop Grumman, and commercial clients building large-scale small satellite constellations.




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