Advanced Television

AST SpaceMobile set for Q1’23 testing

December 14, 2022

By Colin Mann

AST SpaceMobile, the company building the first and only space-based cellular broadband network accessible directly by standard mobile phones, has provided an operational update on the BlueWalker 3 (BW3), Block 1 BlueBird and next-generation BlueBird programmes.

“The achievements to date for BlueWalker 3 validate the design roadmap for our BlueBirds, including deploying and flying the largest-ever commercial communications array in low Earth orbit, a key fundamental and patented technology to deliver space-based cellular broadband directly to unmodified phones,” said Abel Avellan, Chairman and CEO of AST SpaceMobile. “On the back of the successful deployment of BW3’s communications array, we look forward to initiating testing with our mobile network operator partners starting early in the first quarter of 2023.”

Update on BlueWalker 3 on-orbit activities, the largest-ever commercial communications array deployed in low Earth orbit

  • Achievements with nominal operations on BW3 satellite over the last 3 months
    • Built TT&C (Tracking, Telemetry & Control) network on Earth, with teams monitoring 24/7 BW3 orbit via earth stations in Maryland, Colorado and Australia
    • Achieved nominal operations for guidance, navigation and control of BW3 over the last 3 months at an altitude of ~515km and sustained velocity of ~17,000 mph
    • Upgraded onboard flight control software to incorporate BW3 on-orbit learnings and control the deployed communications array
    • Deployed the 693 square foot communications array, from stowed configuration, in November 2022
    • Powered the communications array in preparation for mobile network operator testing
    • Tested patented doppler and delay hardware and software solution on the ground with Rakuten Mobile and Nokia baseband technology
    • Completed installation of ground network for end-to-end testing in Texas, Hawaii and Japan
    • Received test licenses via partner mobile network operators from relevant regulatory bodies in the United States, Japan, Colombia, Kenya, Nigeria, Philippines, and Indonesia in advance of mobile network operator testing
    • Updated ground Space Operations Center (SOC) system and processes to support planned low Earth orbit operations
  • Transition to testing of direct-to-cell satellite capabilities beginning in Q1 2023, supporting mobile network operator partners to interconnect with BlueWalker 3 and prepare for future commercial service with BlueBird satellites
    • Integrate with mobile network operator core networks, including AST SpaceMobile patented doppler and delay system, starting as early as January
    • Conduct initial 4G LTE and 5G end-to-end connectivity starting from communications array as early as January
    • Report speed test data in coordination with mobile network operator partners

Update on BlueBird programmes, targeting launch of first 5 commercial satellites in late 2023

  • Confirmation of BW3 mechanical deployment system and system architecture expected to be used for first 5 Block 1 BlueBird satellites
  • Confirmation of main BW3 subsystems expected to be used for first 5 Block 1 BlueBird satellites, including guidance, navigation and control system in use on BW3
  • Assembly and production lines designed, and equipment ordered and partially installed, with significant flexibility to meet expected 2023 production needs in our 185,000 square foot Texas manufacturing facilities
  • Expect to begin initial chip production during 2023 of custom AST 5000 ASIC for future generation, higher capacity BlueBird satellites

Planned testing of the BW3 test satellite with mobile network operators may be delayed, may not prove successful, or may not be completed at all due to various factors, including, but not limited to, equipment failure, or other technical issues.


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