Facebook enters satellite business
October 14, 2020
By Chris Forrester
Facebook is now operating its own satellite. The single craft was launched back on September 2nd on an Arianespace Vega rocket which carried 53 small satellites.
The Facebook “experimental” vehicle weighed just 138 kgs and was built by Maxar technologies.
Facebook is not saying much about the mission other than that the satellite has “broadband potential”. Facebook added that it believes satellite technology will enable the next generation of broadband infrastructure [and] helping to bridge the digital divide.
However, the move seems not to indicate that Facebook is planning a major move into owning its own satellites. Facebook, in a response to Light Reading, stressed that it is not planning to become a provider of satellite technology.
Back in September 2015 Facebook struck a deal with Eutelsat which covered a lease for Ka-band capacity which reached 14 sub-Saharan nations for a period of 5 years. The capacity wasn’t on a Eutelsat craft but used bandwidth which should have been supplied by Israel’s Spacecom on its Amos-6 craft. That deal – at that time – was valued at about $20 million a year.
However, that deal was never consummated in that the Amos-6 satellite was lost in a huge explosion atop a SpaceX rocket while still on the ground in September 2016.
It is known that Facebook has been planning to launch “Athena”, its own broadband satellite. In 2018 it confirmed plans for a satellite to “efficiently provide broadband access to unserved and underserved areas throughout the world.” The project received FCC permission via a business registered as PointView Tech LLC.
The Athena project covered a satellite which was planned to operate at 500-550 kms high, and orbit for some 2 years.