Disney star Bridgit Mendler launches satellite startup Northwood Space

Disney star Bridgit Mendler launches satellite startup Northwood Space

Actress and singer Bridgit Mendler attends NBCUniversal’s afterparty for the 72nd Annual Golden Globes Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 11, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.

Paul Archuleta | Movie Magic | Getty Images

Bridgit Mendler is no stranger to reaching millions of people – now she wants to change how satellite data reaches the ground.

A former Disney Channel star and singer – with filmographies including “Good Luck Charlie,” “Wizards of Waverly Place” and “The Gang” – Mendler has studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Law School in recent years.

Through her self-described “engineering background” and her time at the Federal Communications Commission’s new Space Bureau, where she “completely fell in love with space law,” Mendler is launching a new career in the space industry as CEO of startup Northwood Space , based in El Segundo, California.

“The vision is an information highway between Earth and space,” Mendler told CNBC. “Space is getting easier in so many different dimensions, but the actual task of sending data to and from space is still difficult. You’re having a hard time finding an access point to contact your satellite.”

Instead of building rockets or satellites, Northwood aims to mass produce ground stations. Ground stations, also called teleports, are typically large and often circular antennas that connect to satellites in space.

Northwood is already attracting high-profile venture capital investors, with initial funding totaling approximately $6 million from investors such as Founders Fund, Andreessen Horowitz and Also Capital.

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Mendler is building Northwood with two co-founders: the startup’s chief technology officer and her husband, Griffin Cleverly, and software chief Shaurya Luthra.

Both Cleverly and Luthra spent time at Lockheed Martin as engineers. The former recently worked at Miter Corporation in communications, and the latter spent almost four years building the ground station network of satellite imaging company Capella Space.

The startup’s co-founders, from left: Chief Technology Officer Griffin Cleverly, CEO Bridgit Mendler and Head of Software Shaurya Luthra.

Northwood Space

Northwood’s name comes from a lake in New Hampshire, where Mendler said the idea for the business came about while she was spending time with her family during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“While everyone else was making their sourdough starters, we were building antennas out of whatever crap we could find at Home Depot… and receiving data from them.” [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] satellites,” said Mendler.

“For me, the ground side is important because it’s really about educating people about the effects of space,” Mendler added.

Mass production of ground stations

Skillfully emphasizes that the growth of the space industry means that a “colossal” amount of data is now trying to get to and from satellites.

“We need an approach so that these companies can get the data reliably and in the quantities that they need,” he told CNBC.

Northwood’s goal is to build satellite ground stations primarily designed for rapid production and deployment flexibility. Luthra said Northwood wants to deliver ground stations “within days, not months” so that satellite operators don’t waste time reconfiguring their networks to adequately support what’s happening on Earth.

“If you want a dedicated antenna, you have to wait 18 months for the antenna to be delivered, installed and set up for you,” Luthra said.

The startup plans to initially offer services for satellites in low Earth orbit, for companies that don’t want to spend the money to build their own ground station networks. Northwood wants to address a bottleneck in shared ground stations that makes it difficult for customers to find availability on existing teleports.

An Amazon Web Services Ground Station satellite antenna at one of the company’s data centers in Boardman, Oregon.


“Traditionally, if I wanted to use an antenna or a site, I would first have to ask, ‘Do you have the availability or is it already leased to everyone else in the world?’ “Often very important locations were already rented,” said Luthra.

Northwood wants to offer its customers a similar experience to those who rent server capacity Amazon Web services or Microsoft’s Azure – Avoiding the capital outlay of building and operating your own servers.

“It allows space companies to respond much more quickly to emerging use cases and missions,” Cleverly said.

The startup plans to conduct a first test of connecting to a spacecraft in orbit this year.

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2024-02-19 14:00:01