On March 21 this year, Boeing delivered to Florida the most powerful communications satellite in human history to date – the inaugural ViaSat 3 constellation, ViaSat-3 Americas (America’s Star).
The NASA events calendar shows that SpaceX will launch this satellite via a Heavy Falcon rocket at 07:29 am BST on the 28th, along with two smaller satellites, Arcturus and G-Space 1, which will be carpooled together. Of course, the launch will be postponed again if weather or technical reasons do not allow it (it was originally scheduled for 18 April), and the weather forecast for Space Launch Delta 45th shows a 40% chance of not meeting the launch criteria.
The satellite is a super high-throughput communications satellite developed by Boeing for ViaSat, the highest-throughput Ka-band communications satellite ever built by mankind, and the first launch of Boeing’s 702MP+ platform, as well as the first all-electric propulsion system for the 702MP series platform, which can transmit data at 1Tbps (China’s Zhongxing 26, launched earlier this year, just (China’s Zhongxing 26 launched earlier in the year just exceeded 100Gbps).
▲ Photo credit: Boeing
The satellite is expected to be launched on the SpaceX Heavy Falcon launch vehicle from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida (the only launch pad currently capable of handling Heavy Falcons), the rocket’s second mission this year and the sixth flight of the Heavy Falcon rocket. The launch was an expendable launch (core B1068, boosters B1052 and B1053 all-throw), using maximum thrust to send the satellite straight into GEO geostationary orbit, where it will provide communications services to North and South America in the Western Hemisphere.
The ViaSat 3 constellation system, consisting of three satellites, is intended to be one of the most powerful constellations in human history, with two follow-on satellites covering the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region and the Asia-Pacific region, respectively, and is scheduled to be launched on Cosmopolis 5 and Ariane 6 rockets, with launches expected in September 2023 and March 2024.
Viasat-3 has a mass of around 6 tons, a pair of huge light wings (16 solar panels in total) and a giant umbrella antenna that allows it to communicate at rates of up to 100+Mpbs and a capacity of up to 1Tbps.
ViaSat claims that this satellite is the largest capacity telecommunications satellite ever built. Boeing has previously described ViaSat 3 as the most powerful satellite it has ever built, with solar panels alone capable of generating an extraordinary 30 kilowatts of power (about a quarter of the power capacity of the International Space Station).
ViaSat-3 Americas is planned to use a geostationary orbit at 88.9 degrees West and is designed to have an in-orbit lifetime of at least 15 years. The satellite is based on the Boeing 702MP bus, manufactured at Boeing’s El Segundo, California facility and transported to Florida on a Ukrainian Antonov AN-124 cargo plane.
In addition to ViaSat-3 Americas, two small satellites will also be placed in geostationary orbit on this flight. the Arcturus satellite, a communications satellite dedicated to the state of Alaska, also known as Aurora 4A, has a mass of 400 kg and is planned to use an orbit of 163 degrees West, making it the first Astranis commercial satellite to be launched. The satellite is designed for a 10-year life and uses the 7.5 Gbps Ku-band and has two solar panels.
G-Space 1 is a 16U CubeSat, built in Denmark for Gravity Space of Ukraine, weighing 22 kg and designed to support IoT communication services. The satellite contains several payloads, such as the Nusantara H-1A for PT Pasifik Satelit Nusantara in Indonesia.
Following this mission, SpaceX’s Heavy Falcon rocket is scheduled to fly three more missions this year: the USSF-52 mission is scheduled to launch no earlier than 23 June; Echostar 24 (Jupiter 3) will launch no earlier than August this year; and the NASA Psyche asteroid probe is confirmed for launch on 5 October.