AST SpaceMobile plans BlueWalker 3 direct-to-cell connectivity testing from space with mobile network operators on six continents
AST SpaceMobile, Inc. today announced that its BlueWalker 3 test satellite (BW3) has arrived at Cape Canaveral. The satellite recently departed an off-site testing facility in California after collecting flight data for the upcoming planned launch to low Earth orbit, with a launch window for early to mid-September.
“There are over five billion mobile phones in use today globally, but many of us still experience gaps in coverage as we live, work and travel. Additionally, there are billions of people around the world who still lack access to broadband,” said Scott Wisniewski, Chief Strategy Officer at AST SpaceMobile. “We want our efforts to significantly increase the availability of cellular broadband globally by providing a space-based network to existing, unmodified mobile phones. The delivery of BlueWalker 3 to Cape Canaveral represents another milestone in our efforts to reach this goal.”
The actual BW3 launch date remains subject to change and is contingent on a number of factors including, but not limited to, final testing, final integration, timely readiness of the launch vehicle and other unknowns including, but not limited to, weather conditions or technical problems.
Over the summer, AST SpaceMobile completed the assembly and stowing of BW3, including its 693-square-foot phased array of antennas, at the company’s Midland, TX headquarters and manufacturing facility. This large array of antennas is designed to connect directly to existing mobile phones from a much longer distance than traditional cell towers. In total, more than 800 tests were conducted on the satellite before it left Texas.
Members of the public will be able to watch a live broadcast of the launch online or view it in person at several public viewing locations throughout the Cape Canaveral area.
Once in low Earth orbit and following initial in-orbit testing and configuration, AST SpaceMobile plans to conduct BW3 direct-to-cell phone testing on every inhabited continent, in coordination with mobile network operators (MNOs). MNOs in the mission’s test plans include Vodafone, Rakuten Mobile, and Orange, among others, using cell phone handsets from major global manufacturers.
Concurrent with the launch of BW3, AST SpaceMobile continues to build out its manufacturing capabilities to reach its goal of building six next-generation BlueBird satellites per month. The company intends to launch a low Earth orbit constellation of BlueBirds that would provide cellular broadband from space across the globe – on land, at sea, and in the air.