Former Disney TV star Bridgit Mendler co-founds satellite ‘knowledge freeway’ startup

On Tuesday (Feb. 20), after a comparatively lengthy hiatus from the general public eye, Bridgit Mendler introduced the launch of her new satellite knowledge startup, Northwood. Beyond introducing fairly an attention-grabbing firm — one which goals to make satellite expertise extra accessible by mass-producing data-retrieving floor stations on Earth — there’s one other main motive the launch has been making headlines.

Once upon a time, Mendler was a Disney Channel actress. 

The 31-year-old area CEO might be greatest identified for her function as Teddy Duncan, the pleasant older sister of Charlie Duncan within the Disney TV collection “Good Luck Charlie,” which ran from 2010 to 2014. However, her performing repertoire holds way more, as does the highway that led her to the area enterprise sector. 

Related: UK startup readies new satellite that can make semiconductors in area

I, for one, affiliate Mendler most together with her function as Juliet Van Heusen, the teenage vampire who dates Justin Russo, a boy-next-door wizard within the Disney TV collection “Wizards of Waverly Place.” That present ran between 2007 and 2012. She’s additionally performed some non-Disney elements, comparable to a task in two episodes of Season 5 of the TV collection “Nashville” in 2017, and one other within the 2018 comedy movie “Father of the Year.” According to IMDB, her most up-to-date performing expertise got here in 2019, with eight episodes of the TV collection “Merry Happy Whatever.” Plus, someplace in between all this, Mendler had a quick, however notable, singing career.

However, in the meantime and behind the scenes, Mendler was additionally pursuing a bachelor’s diploma on the University of Southern California, which she attained in 2016. She then went on to finish a grasp’s diploma adopted by a Ph.D. on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2020 and 2024 respectively, the latter of which was related to MIT’s famend Media Lab. Furthermore, along with her Ph.D, she went to Harvard Law School and graduated together with her J.D. in 2024. At Harvard, she was additionally co-president of the Harvard Space Law Society. 

Which brings us to at present. 

“Expect the unexpected!” Mendler wrote in a post on LinkedIn. “So excited to be able to finally share what I’ve been working on with my two favorite ground nerds — Griffin Cleverly and Shaurya Luthra. At Northwood, we’re rethinking infrastructure for satellite backhaul from the ground up.”

  AFL statement - Joel Smith

Cleverly is Mendler’s husband and CTO of Northwood, whereas Luthra is the corporate’s Head of Software; collectively, per the Northwood web site, they want to create a sort of “data highway between Earth and space.”

Basically, after a satellite in Earth orbit collects a bunch of knowledge — whether or not or not it’s local weather knowledge, deep area knowledge, and even knowledge about how its personal programs are functioning — that data should ultimately get “downlinked” to scientists ready on Earth. Such downlinking occurs via what’re referred to as ground stations

The Northwood trio say they’ve recognized a difficulty with these floor station mechanisms; particularly, the truth that “many key aspects of ground architecture haven’t changed much since the 1960s. The industry standard is bespoke manufacturing processes, lengthy construction and fine-tuning, only to deliver a system with limited capacity and frequent failures.”

So, to fight the problem, the workforce is embarking on a quest to mass produce these floor stations and, in flip, make satellite expertise extra environment friendly and accessible. “For me, why the ground-side matters is because it actually is about bringing the impacts of space home to people,” Mendler told CNBC.

Though it is nonetheless in its early phases, Mendler says, Northwood has attracted some high-profile buyers and garnered about $6.three million in preliminary funding.

“We’re already building a killer team,” Mendler wrote in her LinkedIn publish, citing members linked to firms like SpaceX, Northrop Grumman and Palantir Technologies. “We have a lot of work ahead of us, but that’s the fun part. If you like building quickly and seeing your work deployed in locations around the globe with real impact, we want you at Northwood.”

And maybe as a result of she’s now within the limelight once more, Mendler additionally took to the web to announce a beautiful private life replace. 

“I’m a mama to a sweet 4yo boy,” she wrote in an X post on Monday (Feb. 19). “Started fostering in 2021 adopted near Christmas of 2022. I’m so lucky — being a parent is the biggest gift and most defining experience there is.”

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