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First ViaSat-3 Satellite Launched By SpaceX Falcon Heavy

First ViaSat-3 satellite launched by SpaceX Falcon Heavy, which focuses on providing services to the Americas. The launch was delayed due to severe weather conditions, including lightning and tornado warnings.

Daisy-Mae Schmitt
May 01, 202338 Shares7699 Views
First ViaSat-3 satellite launched by SpaceX Falcon Heavy, which focuses on providing services to the Americas. The launch was delayed due to severe weather conditions, including lightning and tornado warnings.
The Falcon Heavy rocket took off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center at 8:26 pm Eastern time and headed towards geostationary orbit. This was the sixth flight of the rocket since its debut in 2018, and both side boosters separated from the core stage slightly over three minutes after lift-off. Although the boosters had previously supported nine missions in total, SpaceX did not attempt to recover them this time to improve the rocket's performance.
The primary payload of the mission was the ViaSat-3 Americas, which weighed 6,400 kilograms and was deployed around four hours and 32 minutes after lift-off. Two rideshare payloads were also deployed, including Arcturus, the first broadband satellite built by Californian venture Astranis, which weighed under 400 kilograms, and a cubesat from Washington-based Gravity Space with a communications payload.
Initially scheduled for April 18th, the mission was delayed for unknown reasons to April 26th after a static-fire test. However, SpaceX then postponed the launch by an additional day to complete data reviews. The mission faced further setbacks due to severe weather on April 27th, which disrupted the launch. Lightning struck the tower at the Falcon Heavy's LC-39A launchpad, leading SpaceX engineers to conduct checks on the rocket, its payloads, and ground systems.
On April 28th, SpaceX had to abort a launch attempt at T-minus 59 seconds, and the company did not disclose the reasons for the cancellation. As severe weather conditions were predicted for April 29th, the mission was rescheduled to April 30th.

Falcon Heavy launches ViaSat-3 Americas

Viasat has faced a series of setbacks in its plan to deploy three ViaSat-3 satellites, originally scheduled for 2019, due to production and supply chain issues compounded by the pandemic. The delays were primarily caused by payload, satellite integration, and launch issues, although the shortage of skilled workers due to COVID-19 was the most significant contributor, according to Viasat CEO Mark Dankberg. The ViaSat-3 Americas, the first of the three satellites, was successfully launched by SpaceX on April 30, with the satellite attempting to deploy its solar arrays in the coming days.
Viasat developed the payload for each ViaSat-3 internally and used a Boeing chassis based on the manufacturer’s 702 satellite platform. Each ViaSat-3 is designed to provide more than 1,000 gigabits per second (Gbps) of capacity, which is roughly three times more than the capacity provided over the Americas by the ViaSat-2 satellite launched in 2017.
The second ViaSat-3, designed for coverage over Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, is currently undergoing final integration and tests at Boeing’s facilities ahead of a launch scheduled for this fall on an Atlas 5 from United Launch Alliance. The third and final ViaSat-3, which will cover Asia, is about to be shipped to Boeing for integration, with a launch expected in a little over a year.
Viasat initially had a contract to launch its third ViaSat-3 on Ariane 6, Arianespace’s next-generation launch vehicle, but is now seeking to order a different launch vehicle following delays to get Ariane 6 into service.
The ViaSat-3 Americas satellite would enable Viasat to extend its reach over the Americas and expand services out of Brazil to cover all of South America for the first time, as well as cover air routes to Hawaii. The satellite will take close to three weeks to reach its final geostationary orbit position at 88.9 degrees West, followed by two to three months of health checks before entering commercial service.
Pacific Dataport Inc. (PDI), a U.S.-based telco, has leased the entire 10 Gbps of capacity on Astranis' Arcturus satellite for internet services across Alaska for the satellite's expected seven-year lifetime. Astranis plans to launch four more satellites in late summer, with Anuvu and Andesat leasing capacity on two of them, while the fourth satellite has an undisclosed customer.


Mexican telco Apco Networks has also ordered two satellites from Astranis for a third batch of spacecraft that the manufacturer aims to launch on an undisclosed rocket next year. To fund its expansion plans, Astranis recently raised more than $200 million in an equity and debt deal led by the growth fund of U.S. venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.
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