From Staff Reports

TRAVERSE CITY — Atlas Space Operations announced plans to partner with Quintillion Networks to build North America’s highest-latitude grand station.

The communications installation will be 250 miles inside the Arctic Circle, in Utqiagvik, Alaska, according to a release.

The station is scheduled to become operational in the first quarter of 2020 and will be put to use immediately by U.S. government and commercial customers.

“Access to high speed connectivity in the Arctic has been a challenge until now,” Sean McDaniel, CEO and co-founder of Traverse City-based Atlas, said in the release.

“Our partnership with Quintillion enables Atlas to overcome this challenge while providing a significant capability to our customers on U.S. soil. It is significant because this project is entirely privately funded, which gives our U.S. Government and commercial customers a more affordable option for secure, resilient high speed connectivity to polar orbiting satellite missions.”

Quintillion is a private communication corporation based in Anchorage, Alaska. It built and operates a submarine and terrestrial high-speed fiber optic cable system that serves residential, commercial and federal government clients. The network spans the Alaskan Arctic and connects to the Lower 48 states through existing networks.

The Quintillion-Atlas 3.7 meter ground station in Utqiagvik will use Quintillion’s existing fiber optic infrastructure.

“We look forward to expanding our network across the Quintillion subsea cable system, whenever we are able to leverage their Arctic presence and capabilities,” McDaniel said.

Demand for Atlas’ communications service is growing. The number of satellites in orbit is growing as they get smaller and launch costs decline. Many satellites pass over the Arctic during their orbit, so a polar ground station allows owners to communicate with their satellites more frequently.

“The Arctic has traditionally been a digital bottleneck, or ‘black hole,’ negatively impacting residential, commercial and government clients living and working in the region and slowing economic, information and commerce activity around the world,” George Tronsrue, interim CEO of Quintillion, said in the release.

“Our developing Arctic infrastructure, located in one of the highest latitude regions of the world, coupled with a resurging international push to launch thousands of new satellites over the next decade, strongly positions us to be the leading infrastructure provider to U.S. and North American partners/clients and to global satellite ground station operators.”

The remote nature of the station’s location will help minimize signal interference, according to the release.

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