The Arcturus satellite is en route to geosynchronous orbit.

Astranis

Satellite internet service provider Astranis said Friday that its first commercial satellite in orbit, which was supposed to provide coverage to Alaska, failed. A backup satellite is planned for launch in the spring.

It was an early setback for its unique approach to delivering internet service to remote, underserved communities. Astranis announced in May that Arcturus was running “flawlessly” and that it would start serving Alaskans as soon as mid-June.

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The company said it had problems with two solar arrays on its Arcturus satellite. Astranis CEO John Gedmark told CNBC that the issue “first arose a few weeks ago.” On Monday, the company determined the root cause, which was that the solar array drive components were manufactured by a supplier other than Astranis.

“Solar array drives are the motors that spin the solar arrays to make sure they’re always pointing toward the sun, and then transmit power back to the spacecraft. So if they stop responding and stop spinning … you end up not getting all the power you need,” Gedmark said.

The lack of power from the solar panels means its broadband communications “cannot operate at full capacity,” Gedmark said, but Astranis has already identified the problem and knows how to fix it on future satellites.

Additionally, Atranis has “full control” of Arcturus, the company said.

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The company declined to name the suppliers that provide the drivers for the solar arrays. Gedmark confirmed on Friday that components made by Astranis had been working before the solar array problems. The company has successfully completed an early demonstration connecting remote areas of Alaska.

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