Former NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine joins the board of directors of space-based broadband company Viasat as his last appearance after NASA, after joining a space-focused private equity firm in January. Wading into the world of satellite internet, he says he’s concerned about the digital divide and humanity’s future, and wants to try something new.
“When I left NASA, I had a lot of different phone calls and texts about what to do next or what to do next,” says Bridenstine The edgeA mentor, he said, suggested contacting companies he’s interested in, so he emailed Viasat’s co-founder and executive chairman Mark Dankberg and asked if they needed help.
“There is a digital divide and we need to close it,” said the former congressman and NASA chief, adding that he thinks Viasat’s approach to radiating the Internet from long distances with massive, high-throughput satellites is the right plan. He said he was also drawn to the company’s goal of reducing internet costs – almost a stirring mantra similar to the one he repeated nonstop at NASA about lowering the cost of astronaut trips to space.
“I mean, if we want more of the world to be connected, we have to cut costs,” he said.
Southern California-based Viasat, a long-term provider of space-based internet, plans to launch its technologically complex but long-delayed trio of internet satellites, called ViaSat-3, at approximately six-month intervals, starting in the first quarter. from 2022. From super high orbits, those three satellites will flood the world with broadband internet with a throughput of one terabyte per second.
Smaller satellites in lower orbits, and in larger swarms, are all wildly popular in satellite broadband today, where their proximity to Earth shortens the time it takes for Internet signals to beam to homes and businesses. SpaceX’s Starlink constellation is growing rapidly, with more than 1,300 satellites launched to space since 2019. Jeff Bezos’ Amazon is planning its own constellation called Project Kuiper. Both constellations are multi-billion dollar corporations, an investment that has bankrupted other companies. Viasat also has plans to send 300 internet satellites into low Earth orbit.
For Viasat, bringing Bridenstine on board will help the company gain an edge in “ space systems and network technology worldwide, ” Dankberg said in a statement, adding that “ Jim is also a staunch advocate of maintaining secure access to space through proactive measures to protect space. contain the space environment and orbital debris. “
Bridenstine wasn’t sure how demanding the new job will be, but he will attend Viasat’s quarterly board meetings and possibly the annual shareholder meetings. “But if there are other areas where I can fill in gaps or provide support during the year, I have no doubt Viasat is likely to call me,” he said.
Less than a week after his departure on Jan. 20, when President Biden was sworn in, Bridenstine joined aerospace and defense private equity firm Acorn Growth Companies.