Advanced Television

BlueWalker 3 readies for launch

June 14, 2022

By Chris Forrester

AST SpaceMobile, backed by Vodafone and other cellular operators, says its BlueWalker 3 satellite, designed to create a space-based cellular network directly accessible from standard mobile phones, will launch around August 15th.

The test satellite’s launch date is subject to the usual constraints of weather and last-minute technical factors. BlueWalker 3 will launch from Florida on a SpaceX rocket. The satellite will orbit at between 375-425 kms.

BlueWalker 3 carries a 693-square-foot phased array that is designed to test cellular broadband communications directly with standard mobile phones, from space, for the first time. AST SpaceMobile has invested approximately $85 million (€81.3m) in the satellite’s development and the company’s engineers have successfully conducted more than 800 ground tests with BlueWalker 3.

AST SpaceMobile says it is designing a planned satellite constellation that aims to directly connect to cell phones around the globe, including markets where it operates in Africa such as Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ghana, Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia, subject to regulatory approval and other requirements.

The BlueWalker 3 mission is expected to complete the company’s initial research and development program and facilitate integration testing with mobile network operators including Vodafone.

Abel Avellan, Chairman/CEO of AST SpaceMobile, said: “The launch of BlueWalker 3 is the culmination of years of effort by our engineers to let us test connecting the phone in your pocket, with no modifications to the phone, directly with one of our satellites in space. This revolutionary technology supports our mission to eliminate the connectivity gaps faced by more than 5 billion mobile subscribers today moving in and out of coverage, and bring cellular broadband to approximately half of the world’s population who remain unconnected. We want to close the gap between the digital ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.”

The FCC granted AST SpaceMobile an experimental license that allows the company to test BlueWalker 3 satellite-to-phone connectivity in the US at sites in Texas and Hawaii. Once BlueWalker 3 is operational, the company plans to conduct testing on 5 different continents, in coordination with leading mobile network operators like Vodafone, Rakuten Mobile, Orange and others.

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