The moves come as Cambridge, Massachusetts-based ASI prepares for initial deployment of Fast Pixel Network, a data transport network the company is establishing in low Earth orbit to ingest data from geospatial intelligence satellites, transfer data via high-speed optical intersatellite links, and deliver data to military, intelligence and commercial customers.
In addition to Monson and Velazco, ASI announced the hiring June 29 of Rhonda Landers, the former Nanosteel chief financial officer. Landers will be ASI’s vice president of finance. Alejandra Herrera, will be ASI’s “head of people.” Herrera has helped multiple startups scale operations over a career of more than 30 years, ASI said in a news release.
Katherine, Jose, Rhonda and Alejandra “come with decades of experience imagining and materializing innovative concepts in the space industry, navigating companies from early capability demonstrations to sustainable business models, and rapidly scaling organizations while maintaining a mission driven and inclusive culture,” ASI CEO Dan Nevius said in a statement. “I’m honored and humbled by their decisions to deploy their incredible talents toward accelerating ASI’s mission of building the in-orbit infrastructure to give humanity access to a high fidelity, persistent view of our planet.”
Monson, who led ground stations at Spire Global before moving to KSAT, said her decision to join ASI was based on her desire to help establish “more dynamic” communications infrastructure.
“We hope to be able to provide a network with low latency and data rates that match expectations from terrestrial fiber because we can build it with optical communications relays in low Earth orbit,” Monson told SpaceNews.
While ground stations will continue to be an important component of the communications puzzle, satellite imagery will become even more valuable when end-customers can observe activities as they occur, rather than minutes or hours later, Monson said. The Coast Guard could take action, for example, if it had immediate access to imagery of illegal fishing.
In addition, ASI’s Fast Pixel Network will address the concerns of government customers seeking to safeguard geospatial data, Monson said.
In spite of the promise of optical terminals to speed up and safeguard communications, the Fast Pixel Network will be backward compatible with RF communications because the optical communications infrastructure is just beginning to take shape. Many satellites operating today do not have optical terminals onboard.
Velazco, holds dozens of patents for space technology, including patents for optical ground technology and an omnidirectional optical communicator. The omnidirectional optical communicator promises “gigabit per second data rates over distances up to 1,000 kilometers in free space,” according to a paper presented at a 2018 conference for SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics.
ASI is expanding its staff after a record year, in which the company “secured over $4.5 million in revenue” and a revenue backlog of more than $20 million, according to the news release.
ASI announced a $26.4 million contract in February to develop and launch six cubesats and two hosted payloads to begin establishing the Fast Pixel Network. The three-year contract was awarded by the U.S. Air Force’s AFVentures with funding from the U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center and the Air Force Research Laboratory.