satellite

Former Disney Star Bridget Mendler Is Launching A Satellite Data Startup 

Former Disney star Bridget Mendler, known for appearing in programs like “Good Luck Charlie,” “The Clique,” “Lemonade Mouth,” and more, is not embarking on a new venture that will change how satellite data moves from space back down to Earth. 

Mendler has spent the past several years gaining various degrees and studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as well as Harvard Law School. Mendler spoke to CNBC about her new career in the space industry as CEO of Northwood Space, a startup based in El Segundo, California. She began this journey after “falling in love with Space law” throughout her educational journey. 

“The vision is a data highway between Earth and space. Space is getting easier along so many different dimensions but still the actual exercise of sending data to and from space is difficult. You have difficulty finding an access point for contacting your satellite.”

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According to Mendler, Northwood will mass produce ground stations, which are normally large with circular antennas that connect to satellites in space. 

Northwood is also already attracting high-profile venture investors with around $6 million in initial funding. Some of these investors include the Founders Fund. Andreessen Horowitz, and Also Capital. 

Besides Mendler, Northwood has two other co-founders, the startups Chief Technology Officer, and her husband Griffin Cleverly, as well as head of software Shaurya Luthra. 

Mendler told CNBC that the name “Northwood” comes from a lake in New Hampshire, where she was with her family during the Covid-19 pandemic when the idea for the company came to her. 

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

“For me, why the ground-side matters is because it actually is about bringing the impacts of space home to people,” Mendler said.

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Cleverly told the news outlet that the general growth of the space industry proves that there is a “colossal” amount of data currently trying to travel back to Earth from various satellites. 

“We need an approach so that those companies can get the data down reliably in the quantities that they need,” Cleverly said. 

Northwood is working to start their initial operations quickly. They want to build ground stations with fast production and deployment flexibility as the priority, according to Luthra, who also said that they want to deliver these ground stations “within days, not months.” Luthra explained that this will make it easier for current satellite operators to avoid reconfiguring their networks. 

“If you want a detected antenna, you have to wait 18 months to get the antenna delivered, installed, and built out for you,” said Luthra. 

Northwood will also be reaching out to services who don’t want to spend the money to build their own ground station networks. 

“Traditionally, when I wanted an antenna or site to use, I would first have to ask, ‘Do you have availability, or is it already rented out to everyone else in the world?’ A lot of times very key sites were already rented out,” Luthra said.

Northwood is aiming to conduct their first connection test with a spacecraft currently in orbit later this year.