November 30, 2022

A depiction of Lockheed Martin’s 400 series satellite buses weighing between 400 kg and 800 kg.

Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin’s space division announced Tuesday a strategic interest agreement with the satellite launch Omnispace “to jointly investigate the development of 5G capabilities from space.”

“This is really based on a shared vision of a global 5G network that will allow users to move seamlessly between satellites [and the] terrestrial network, “said Ram Viswanathan, CEO of Omnispace.

Viswanathan noted Lockheed Martin’s “depth of knowledge” in a variety of markets, particularly with a large number of Defense Department clients.

“Your appetite never diminishes and the need for communication across the board,” said Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space. “Omnispace has a very strong vision of how to deliver the service … [and] how to get it on a mobile device. “

Ambrose said the two companies have been interacting for about a year. The agreement of strategic interests further cement the couple as they work towards a hybrid network that combines the reach of a global satellite network, known in the industry as the Constellation, with the capacity of cellular networks.

The partnership puts the company in the growing field of space-based data communication. Potential competitors are the consumer-oriented Starlink broadband service SpaceX from Elon Musk, the satellite-to-smartphone specialist AST & Science and the business-oriented networks of OneWeb and Telesat.

Viswanathan recognized the other players building low-earth orbit satellite communications constellations, but differentiated Omnispace as a “direct-to-device capability” rather than “expensive and bulky” ground terminals that users need to connect to other space-based networks.

“We are able to provide the mobile communications capability for a standardized 5G basic handheld device or terminal, and as you can imagine, this opens up a number of uses,” said Viswanathan.

Omnispace raised a new round of venture capital last month, with investors invested $ 60 million under the leadership of Fortress Investment Group. According to Pitchbook, the Virginia-based company has raised $ 140 million since it was founded in 2012. Ambrose said it was “too early to say” whether Lockheed Martin would invest in Omnispace itself, but noted that the companies will “consider several options” as the partnership expands.

The next step for Omnispace will be to deploy a “proof concept” of its technology in space. Although Omnispace is not yet finished developing its full system, Viswanathan said the cost of full deployment “will be dramatically lower than other satellite communications constellations,” estimated at $ 5 billion to over $ 10 billion.