Advanced Television

AST SpaceMobile promises US commercial services

July 8, 2024

AST SpaceMobile’s plans to place five of its ‘Block 1’ satellites into orbit are at an “advanced stage”, according to a Prospectus issued on July 3rd. The Prospectus was presented to the SEC in conjunction with a share transfer of 10.4 million shares from Antares Technologies LLC (a Cisneros-related business). AST is building a constellation of satellites to provide global cellular connectivity.

AST already has a test craft in orbit (BlueWalker 3) launched in September 2022. Its follow-on satellites are its Block 1 craft which it confirmed in the Prospectus that: “We now have all the parts, including the subsystems from the two suppliers who were previously delayed in meeting their delivery contractual timelines, to complete the assembly, integration, and testing of the five Block 1 satellites.”

“We are currently in the advanced stages of assembling and testing the Block 1 BB satellites and estimate to transport the five Block 1 BB satellites from our assembly facilities to the launch site between July and August 2024 with an orbital launch scheduled shortly thereafter,” the Prospectus added.

However, AST gave no further details on the specific launch dates for these five satellites. “The exact timing of the launch is contingent on a number of factors, including satisfactory and timely completion of assembly, integrating and testing of the satellites, regulatory approvals, confirmation of the launch slot timing by the launch provider, logistics, weather conditions, and other factors, many of which are beyond our control,” stated AST.

But AST said they currently plan to initiate a limited, non-continuous service in targeted geographical areas in 2025, “including in the US and seek to generate revenue from such service”. AST has agreements in place with AT&T and Verizon as its terrestrial partners to carry consumer messages to and from AST’s satellites.

The operator’s five Block 1 craft are just interim satellites and will be followed very speedily by significantly larger and much more powerful Block 2 satellites. AST says they are in discussions with a launch provider – and thus probably not SpaceX – for the first Block 2 BB satellite. “The agreement has a launch window of December 15, 2024 to March 31, 2025. The exact timing of this launch is contingent on a number of factors, including satisfactory and timely completion of the design, assembly and testing of the Block 2 BB satellite,” said the Prospectus.

“We plan to achieve service in the selected, targeted geographical areas with the launch and operation of 25 BB satellites and achieve substantial service in all targeted geographical areas to meet our long-term business goals with the launch and operation of approximately 95 BB satellites. We anticipate launching and deploying additional satellites beyond the initial 95 satellites in order to enhance coverage and system capacity in response to incremental market demand,” commented AST.

AST is not alone in surrounding the planet with direct-to-cellular (D2C) connectivity. SpaceX watcher Gav Cornwall of Space Offshore, reports that SpaceX will have launched sufficient D2C satellites by the end of September for an autumn service initiation. Cornwall said all indications show satellite 22-23 orbital planes (at 13 playloads per orbital plane) is the initial target, noting: “they need 15 additional launches of D2C to reach that target by end of September”.

SpaceX said on July 3rd, as part of its comments on a launch of 20 Starlink satellites, that its rocket carried 13 craft with D2C capabilities. “These satellites act as cellphone towers in space, eliminating deadzones without phone modifications or special apps,” explained SpaceX.

AST SpaceMobile will give a formal update during its Q2 results announcement on August 14th.

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