Infostellar: This Tokyo Startup Aims To Be The Airbnb Of Satellite Communications
In 2017, seven countries put satellites into orbit for the first time, adding to more than 1,700 operational satellites currently circling our planet. As satellites become smaller and less expensive, launches are increasing. But there’s a critical bottleneck in the development of space communications: access to ground stations.
Every satellite needs to link up with antennas on the ground to send or receive data, but the development of infrastructure on the ground is not keeping pace with the 400 to 600 annual satellite launches. That’s where Tokyo startup Infostellar comes in. It’s pioneering a new way to share limited antenna facilities so that satellite operators and antenna owners can maximize their uplink time. It’s like an Airbnb for space communications.
Naomi Kurahara, co-founder and CEO of Infostellar, wants to build a worldwide ground station network with the aim of sharing antennas on a common platform. Inspired by the global growth of the sharing economy, Infostellar has developed a platform called StellarStation on which antenna owners can sell their idle time. Satellite operators would then pay for the use of the shared antenna for each pass of their satellite, and the revenue is then divided between the antenna owner and Infostellar. With more and more satellite launches, Kurahara estimates the market could be worth about $300 to $500 million by 2022.
Based on the Basic Plan on Space Policy, the Japanese government has been taking steps to support space startups in collaboration with the nation’s space agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and other entities. This assistance includes a demonstration of how to use space data, financial support from the Development Bank of Japan and the Innovation Network Corporation of Japan, and a new matching system called S-Matching, that pairs venture capital firms and startups. S-matching was announced in February by Masaji Matsuyama, the Minister of State for Space Policy.