The Facebook/PointView test ‘Athena’ satellite is scheduled to launch on an Ariane rocket on March 24th, weather permitting. The satellite is just one of dozens of small satellites which will launch that day on a Vega rocket from French Guiana.
The satellite is very much experimental. Weighing just 150 kgs it was built by SpaceSystems/Loral (now part of the Maxar Technology) and based on SSL’s small SSL-100 model with its transmission operating in the E-band (60-90 GHz). E-band promises much faster data-rates with download speeds (to the receiver) of 10 Gb/s and uplink capacity of 30 Gb/s.
The satellite was first expected to launch back in 2019 as explained in its FCC filing. That filing said: “PointView is aiming to understand whether a […] system using E-band spectrum can be used for the provision of fixed and mobile broadband access in unserved and underserved areas.”
PointView was incorporated in 2017 and is a subsidiary of Facebook.
This single satellite, especially given its E-band transmission system, would have to be joined by many, many hundreds of matching craft to supply a global service.
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