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From Disney to the Stars: Bridgit Mendler’s New Venture Aims to Revolutionize Satellite Communication

ByHuey Yee Ong

Feb 24, 2024
From Disney to the Stars: Bridgit Mendler's New Venture Aims to Revolutionize Satellite Communication

From Disney to the Stars: Bridgit Mendler’s New Venture Aims to Revolutionize Satellite Communication

Bridgit Mendler, a former Disney Channel actress, is embarking on an extraordinary new venture that pivots from her acting and singing career to the tech-heavy realm of satellite communication. She is known for roles in Disney Channel shows and films such as “Good Luck Charlie” and “Lemonade Mouth”. Her latest endeavor, Northwood Space, represents a significant shift from her previous public persona, leveraging her academic pursuits at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Law School, and her profound interest in space law developed during her time at the Federal Communications Commission’s new Space Bureau.

What Is Northwood Space’s Mission?

Northwood Space, headquartered in El Segundo, California, is not just another space startup. Under Mendler’s leadership as CEO, the company is focusing on revolutionizing the way data is transmitted between Earth and the vast expanse of space. The startup’s mission is to create a “data highway” that simplifies the complex process of satellite communication, which currently faces challenges such as limited access points for satellite contact.

Unlike other companies in the space sector that might focus on building rockets or satellites, Northwood Space aims to innovate by mass-producing ground stations. These ground stations, also known as teleports, are crucial for connecting satellites in orbit with the Earth, yet they traditionally come with a hefty footprint and significant cost. By rethinking the design and production of these ground stations, Northwood Space aspires to make satellite communication more accessible and efficient.

The company has already caught the attention of high-profile venture capitalists, securing approximately $6 million in initial funding from notable investors like Founders Fund, Andreessen Horowitz, and Also Capital. This financial backing underscores the industry’s interest in Mendler’s vision and Northwood Space’s potential to disrupt satellite data communication.

The Team Behind Northwood Space

Mendler’s transition to the tech world is supported by a team with deep roots in engineering and space technology. WIth that said, here’s a quick overview of the team’s composition and each member’s unique contributions and background:

  1. Bridgit Mendler: CEO
    • Former Disney Channel actress known for roles in “Good Luck Charlie” and “Lemonade Mouth.”
    • Leveraged academic pursuits at MIT and Harvard Law School.
    • Developed a profound interest in space law at the Federal Communications Commission’s new Space Bureau.
  2. Griffin Cleverly: Chief Technology Officer
    • Mendler’s husband with extensive experience in the space industry.
    • Former engineer at Lockheed Martin and communications specialist at the Mitre Corporation.
  3. Shaurya Luthra: Head of Software
    • Brings a wealth of experience from time spent at Lockheed Martin.
    • Played a significant role in building the ground station network for satellite imagery venture Capella Space.

How Did It All Started?

The idea for Northwood Space was conceived in a rather unconventional setting — beside a lake in New Hampshire during the Covid-19 pandemic. While many were preoccupied with baking sourdough bread, Mendler and her team were building antennas from materials sourced from Home Depot, successfully receiving data from satellites operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This initiative underscored the feasibility of their vision to make ground-side space communication more tangible and impactful for everyday life.

How Is Northwood Space Changing Satellite Data Transmission?

Northwood Space is particularly focused on addressing the growing demand for satellite data transmission, a need that has ballooned with the expansion of the space industry. The startup’s innovative approach seeks to provide satellite operators with ground stations that can be produced quickly and deployed with flexibility, breaking away from the traditional model that involves lengthy wait times for antenna delivery and installation. By offering ground station services akin to renting server capacity from cloud providers like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, Northwood Space aims to eliminate the hefty capital expenditure companies currently face when building and operating their own networks.

One of the critical challenges Northwood Space intends to overcome is the bottleneck in shared ground station availability, which often leaves satellite operators struggling to find open slots on existing teleports. The startup’s solution promises a more streamlined and responsive service, allowing space companies to adapt swiftly to emerging missions and use cases without the constraints of current ground station infrastructure.

With plans to conduct a first test connecting to a spacecraft in orbit later this year, Northwood Space is poised to make significant strides in making the benefits of space more accessible and efficient for the world below.

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Featured image was created with the assistance of DALL·E by ChatGPT

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.