California-based broadband satellite operator ViaSat has awarded the launch contract for its latest craft to SpaceX and one of its ‘Heavy’ versions. The giant satellite will be ready for launch in the 2020-2022 time frame.
This is the second-time ViaSat has awarded a contract to SpaceX although the previous agreement was scrubbed in favour of an Arianespace launch because of delays in building the Falcon ‘Heavy’.
ViaSat’s rationale for choosing the SpaceX Falcon ‘Heavy’ is for the rocket’s ability to fly a near direct-injection mission, inserting a ViaSat-3 satellite extremely close to geostationary orbit — as a result, the spacecraft can begin in-orbit testing quickly after launch, rather than spending weeks or months performing orbit raising maneuvers. This is expected to enable Viasat to turn on its ultra-high-speed broadband service much quicker after launch than is possible with other launch vehicles.
The ViaSat-3 class of Ka-band satellites is claimed to provide vastly superior capabilities in terms of service speed and flexibility for a satellite platform. The first two satellites will focus on the Americas and on Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), respectively, with the third satellite planned for the Asia Pacific (APAC) region, completing Viasat’s global service coverage. Each ViaSat-3 class satellite is expected to deliver more than 1-Terabit per second of network capacity, and to leverage high levels of flexibility to dynamically direct capacity to where customers are located.
The company says that selection of Falcon Heavy for one of the ViaSat-3 launches is the next step in implementing ViaSat’s integrated launch strategy for its ViaSat-3 satellite program, which is designed to ensure the on-time launch of its spacecraft through launch vehicle diversity and a systemic, integrated approach to launch planning. ViaSat will announce specific ViaSat-3 mission assignments for each of its contracted launch vehicles at a later date.