Former Disney Channel Star, Bridgit Mendler, is launching a startup called Northwood Space which aims to change how satellite data reaches the ground.

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

With approximately $6 million in initial funding from venture investors such as Founders Fund, Andreessen Horowitz, and Also Capital, the company wants to build satellite ground stations designed with mass production and customer flexibility in mind.

The former Disney Channel star and singer is known for her work on filmography such as  “Good Luck Charlie,” “Wizards of Waverly Place” and “The Clique.” Mendler has since spent several years studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Law School.

Mendler spent time at the Federal Communications Commission’s new Space Bureau, where she “completely fell in love with space law,” and now has a self-described “engineering household”. She’s now making a new career for herself in the space industry as the CEO of the California-based startup.

“The vision is a data highway between Earth and space,” Mendler told CNBC. “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.”

Instead of building satellites or rockets, Northwood aims to mass-produce ground stations, also known as teleports, which connect to satellites in space. Mendler is working with two cofounders on the projects – the startup’s chief technology officer and her husband, Griffin Cleverly, and head of software, Shaurya Luthra.

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

Mendler stated that the original idea for the startup began during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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

Cleverly also emphasized that, due to the space industry’s continued growth, there is now a massive amount of data trying to travel to and from satellites. Northwood aims to build satellite ground stations that emphasize fast production and deployment flexibility.

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

Oftentimes, needing a dedicated antenna can take months to be delivered, installed, and built out. The Northwood team aims to deliver ground stations “within days, not months.”

The team will initially begin by targeting 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 is looking to resolve a bottleneck it sees in shared ground stations making it difficult for customers to find availability on existing teleports.

The startup would like for its customers to have a similar experience to those that rent server capacity for Amazon Web Services or Microsoft’s Azure, allowing them to avoid the expense of building and operating their own servers. They are planning to conduct a first test connecting to a spacecraft in orbit later this year.