AST SpaceMobile’s goal is to directly connect mobile phones to the internet through satellites in orbit. On March 8, it announced they signed a $22.75 million multi-launch contract with SpaceX to launch a space-based cellular broadband network. AST SpaceMobile's satellite constellation will allow users to have access to the internet at their fingertips anywhere in the world without any additional hardware or software on the phone.
This is the ControlSat for our BlueWalker 3 test satellite! 🇺🇸 It has core functions and systems such as propulsion, telemetry, flight computers, backhaul links, and our proprietary beamformer. Our tech is backed by 1,600+ patent and patent-pending claims. 🚀🚀🚀 #ASTSpaceMobile pic.twitter.com/fxwzhObx7h— Abel Avellan (@AbelAvellan) February 11, 2022
SpaceX will begin launching AST SpaceMobile's fleet of BlueWalker and BlueBird satellites to orbit atop Falcon 9 rockets starting this Summer [date pending]. "In addition to the planned summer launch of the BlueWalker 3 test satellite (BW3), the agreement covers the launch of the first BlueBird satellite and provides a framework for future launches," the company announced in a press release. “This agreement secures the availability for a reliable launch of our first production satellites out of the U.S.,” said AST SpaceMobile Founder Abel Avellan. “Our summer launch of BlueWalker 3 will complete the development phase for our company. We have also been industrializing our technology and preparing for the launch of the BlueBird satellites, with this agreement as a key step.” AST SpaceMobile expects to manufacture up to six truck-sized satellites per month at its facility headquartered in Midland, Texas. The company aims to provide initial services after it deploys 20 satellites that could become operational sometime in the year 2023.
We're busy adding 100,000 sq ft of space manufacturing area, for a total of 185,000 sq ft across our Texas facilities, to support a target production rate of up to six BlueBird satellites per month. Eager to bring you on a new tour soon! 🦾🤠🚀🚀🚀🚀 #ASTSpaceMobile pic.twitter.com/kXL3r1gl09— Abel Avellan (@AbelAvellan) March 12, 2022
Previously, the first BlueWalker-3 prototype mission was scheduled to be launched by Russia’s Soyuz rocket as a secondary payload. However, the company switched the launch vehicle after Russia’s primary customer delayed the flight. Then, AST SpaceMobile decided to cancel its contract to launch the cellular satellite network with the Russian-built rocket that would have launched out of Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The decision to select SpaceX as launch provider was made last year before the Russia-Ukraine conflict escalated on February 24th, though company representatives state they are glad that they took a proactive step to select the American launch provider following Russia’s aggressive invasion of Ukraine.
Featured Image Source: SpaceX