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Carlsbad’s Viasat spins for early 2023 to launch first of 3 terabyte class internet satellites

Viasat of Carlsbad said on Tuesday it plans to launch its constellation of next-generation broadband internet satellites early next year, marking another delay in getting the terabyte-class satellites into orbit.

This setback in timing is minor. It’s being piloted by other missions that line up for the same launch facility, according to the company.

The first of three ViaSat-3 satellites has completed testing and is ready to be shipped to the unidentified launch site in December, chief executive Mark Dankberg said.

“At this point, we cannot give a specific launch window other than the first quarter of the 2023 calendar, but we are targeting the start of the quarter and are working with SpaceX to launch as soon as possible,” Dankberg said during an interview. conference. call with Wall Street analysts.

The Viasat-3 constellation is made up of three satellites, each with about 1.5 terabits per second of maximum capacity. It aims to provide faster speeds and more affordable data to airlines for in-flight Wi-Fi, residential Internet rural homes, as well as oil rigs, cruise ships and government customers. . It provides in-flight internet to Air Force One and other government VIP aircraft.

The satellites were supposed to be ready for launch from 2020, but pandemic shutdowns and supply chain shortages have delayed those plans.

Meanwhile, fierce competition has emerged from new satellite internet providers in low Earth orbit, including Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s Starlink.

Starlink has launched more than 2,500 small satellites into low Earth orbit so far. He provides services in the United States and around the world, including helping Ukraine in its war against Russia. It has attracted around 400,000 users since October 2020.

Eventually, Starlink hopes to have around 40,000 satellites in its low Earth orbit. Competitors including OneWeb, Amazon’s Project Kuiper and others have also offered constellations of thousands of satellites.

“Despite Viasat’s three-year delay (and countdown) in deploying its ViaSat-3 constellation, which makes initial ramps for customers of Starlink and others easier than it could have been, we believe that demand continues to exceed capacity, and that Viasat will realize a substantial return on investment from its ViaSat-3 investment,” B. Riley Securities/Discovery Group analyst Mike Crawford said in a research report.

Some satellite industry players, including Viasat, have raised concerns about the environmental impacts of mega constellations in low Earth orbit, including the potential for collisions that could create large, fast-moving debris fields that make some orbits unsafe. .

The first ViaSat-3 satellite will serve the Americas. Around mid-2023, the company will launch a second ViaSat-3 into orbit to cover Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

A third satellite is in preparation to serve Asia/Pacific, giving Viasat global coverage. The exact timing of this launch has yet to be determined.