SpaceX Launches One Of Its Most Complex Missions Ever

SpaceX Launches One Of Its Most Complex Missions Ever

Abel Avalon, president and CEO of AST Spacemobile, said in a statement. This revolutionary technology supports our mission to bridge the connectivity gap faced by today’s more than 5 billion mobile customers and bring mobile broadband to nearly half of the world’s population that remains unconnected. We want to bridge the gap between rich and poor.

The Bluewalker 3 Falcon 9 payload sits in the canopy. The top of the Falcon 9 will fire two engines before launching the approximately 3,300-pound (1.5 metric-ton) Bluewalker 3 satellite to an altitude of about 318 miles (513 mi). kilometer). Bluewalker 3 is about to disconnect about 50 minutes after takeoff.

Two more engines in the upper tier of the Falcon 9 will launch the rocket into a slightly lower orbit so that the 34 Starlink satellites can be deployed in approximately T+ plus 2 hours and 4 minutes. SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said Saturday night’s launch will be “one of our most complex missions.”

“Bluewalker 3 will be the largest commercial communications suite ever built in low-Earth orbit,” said Scott Wisniewski, chief strategy officer for AST Spacemobile. It measures 693 square feet and is designed to test live mobile broadband engineering.

“We are a company founded on the desire to build mobile broadband straight from space,” Wisniewski said. “We’ve been doing this since 2017. These satellites are designed to communicate directly with mobile phones, regular cell phones and unmodified phones on the ground and we’ll be testing them in the coming months.”

Bluewalker 3 antenna array during ground propagation test. credit: AST Spacemobile

In the first few months after launch, assuming Bluewalker 3 is operating well, ground controllers will send commands to the spacecraft to launch its antenna array. According to Wisniewski, the antenna consists of 148 separate sections, each with its own antenna element, connected by mechanical hinges.

“The identification process itself is very simple,” Wisniewski said in an interview with Spaceflight Now. “Essentially, we compress the satellite into a cube and make it appear in two dimensions using the energy stored in the hinges holding it together. What’s exposed is a bunch of antenna elements descending to Earth, And the solar elements ascend to the Sun.”

“The key to any implementation is to make it as simple and foolproof as possible,” Wisniewski says. “What the James Webb Telescope has done is truly extraordinary. But that level of complexity, in our opinion, creates the potential for error. And if you can avoid it, you will. Over the years, we’ve had many There are more complicated designs and there will be many great ways to do it in the future. But in the end, a simple mechanical hinge is the best way to eliminate the risk.

“For us, the disclosure … will be an important milestone,” Wisniewski said. “And then we’ll do the calibration, and then we’ll start making phone calls.”

AST Spacemobile is backed by venture capital funds and investments from Vodafone, mobile tower operator American Tower and Japanese mobile operator Rakuten. The company has entered into agreements with Samsung, Nokia and mobile operators such as Vodafone, AT&T and Orange to test the compatibility of satellite cellular networks with existing mobile phones.

Bluewalker 3 will showcase SpaceMobile’s AST technology with more than 10 mobile network operators on six continents. “Our goal is to calibrate their network so that we can communicate with them,” Wisniewski said.

If all goes well, the company plans to launch its first five operational satellites by the end of 2023, possibly on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. AST Spacemobile plans to eventually deploy 168 satellites.

“This is part of our plan to build 168 satellites globally,” Wisniewski said.

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