Latency in space-Earth communications creates a significant gap between when critical information is captured and when it’s relayed to the relevant entities on Earth. Hedron aims to build a network of more than a hundred satellites that communicate via laser optics and relay data between satellites, finding the shortest path to a customer’s ground station. They could reduce communication times by 40x from 20 minutes to 2 seconds if successful.
Hedron’s go-to-market strategy: Hedron’s early customers are Earth observation satellites because they require real-time data to be effective at the millisecond speeds Hedron hopes to deliver. In an interview with Payload, Hedron’s COO mentioned why this market is critical: “It’s not helpful to know what was on fire in Ukraine 20 minutes ago, the fire has already burned, and people have already been impacted. You’re too late to change the outcome. If you had the information in 30 seconds, you might be able to take a responsive action.” In addition to proving the technology, the market for Earth Observation satellites is $7.5B, so Hedron has an opportunity to be revenue-generating early on.
How Hedron’s technology works: Hedron needs a network of satellites with global coverage because LEO satellites travel at 17,447 mph, 30 times faster than a commercial jet. The communication window is small at such high speeds since satellites can’t communicate without a line-of-sight connection to a ground station.
There are two ways to get around this: (a) increase satellite coverage in LEO, which Hedron is doing so their satellites can send (or relay) signals to any ground station; (b) increase ground stations on Earth. B is difficult because Earth has limited spots where ground stations fit. Hedron’s COO mentioned: “71% of Earth is water, so there are limited places where this can connect to terrestrial fiber (terrestrial fiber networks are important as they transmit data from the ground station to data centers or other infrastructures). And, you can’t downlink in Russia or China, so those land masses are out of the picture.”
Global satellite coverage means Hedron can build an efficient space-ground routing system akin to the Internet’s data packet-user system, where data finds the most efficient route to reach its destination, bypassing congestions and failures.
Hedron’s inter-satellite communication uses laser optics, which achieve data rates of 622 Mbps, more than six times faster than Starlink’s 100 Mbps. The fundamental principle behind these data rates is Shannon’s capacity formula: ` C = B*log2 (1 + S/N) where C is the data rate, B is bandwidth, and S/N is signal to noise ratio.`
Optical communications operate at very high frequencies (461 THz), where it’s hard to build technology to maximize the power of high-frequency waves. Because of this technical challenge, there isn’t much competition for bandwidth. Companies like Hedron that figure out how to use optical communications effectively will experience higher data rates as a function of more bandwidth. Lasers also have a smaller beam width, which means they can direct their transmission to the target more effectively than an RF system. This reduces interference and increases the Signal-to-noise ratio.
The increased bandwidth and a higher signal-to-noise ratio contribute to the 600+ Mbps speeds that help Hedron achieve its mission of reducing communication speeds to milliseconds.