Slow or hardly any internet at all may be the norm for rural Alaska for a little while longer.
According to SpaceNews.com, the first Astranis-built satellite for rural Alaska won’t be delivering commercial broadband for Alaska-based Pacific Dataport because of a malfunction: The little satellite can’t keep its solar arrays pointed at the sun, the California-based manufacturer’s CEO John Gedmark has reported to trade publications.
The hope was to have a micro-geo satellite coverage for much of the sparsely populated and remote area in Alaska affected by an earlier fiber optic cable break in the Arctic Ocean. Communities in the Arctic and near-Arctic are now using GCI’s TERRA network, which is close to capacity and delivering very slowly.
Meanwhile, QuintillionGlobal, which is trying to repair the fiber optic cable that was cut by ice, has updated its repair schedule:
The current plan of work, based on ice forecast, is to have repair operations start Aug. 9 and run through Aug. 22. The schedule is based on the area of work being 90% ice free during that time.
National Weather Service released a three-month sea ice forecast indicating the earliest opening of the navigation channel to the coastal area nearby the fault as the second half of August. Quintillion said it is consistent with recent commercial ice forecasts.
The repair vessel has been en route from Vancouver, B.C. and is scheduled to be anchored off of Wainwright during the second half of August.
Meanwhile, for Pacific Dataport, Astranis will deploy a full replacement in early 2024, but the hopes for service this summer appear to be dashed.
“Pacific Dataport is currently focused on two goals: Using OneWeb LEO service to get rural Alaskans connected and preparing a second, much larger satellite for our 154º W orbital slot, which will launch in 2025,” Pacific Dataport said in a statement.
The new satellite will have significantly more capacity than Arcturus, the company said, as technology continues to improve by leaps and bounds in this sector. The MicroGEO satellite weighs about 800 pounds, far lighter than the 6.5 tons of standard broadband satellites.