Viasat Orders Falcon Heavy Rocket for Viasat-3 Launch

Viasat Orders Falcon Heavy Rocket for Viasat-3 Launch

SpaceX will launch one of Viasat’s three ViaSat-3 satellites that are designed to cover Earth with Ka-band spot beams for broadband connectivity

Viasat Inc., the communications company based in Carlsbad, California, plans to launch a telecom satellite on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket between 2020 and 2022. The company offers high-speed satellite broadband services and secure networking systems that cover military and commercial markets. SpaceX will launch one of the company’s three ViaSat-3 satellites, each designed to cover a third of the planet with Ka-band spot beams for broadband connectivity.

The contract was announced on October 25, 2018 and it will be Viasat’s second attempt to launch on Falcon Heavy. In 2016, the company had switched its ViaSat-2 satellite from Falcon Heavy to the Ariane 5 from European launch provider Arianespace due to delays with the development of the rocket. The company has now booked all three launches for its ViaSat-3 constellation. Viasat had secured an Ariane 5 launch slot in 2016 and arranged an Atlas 5 launch with United Launch Alliance (ULA) in September 2018. However, the company has not provided any information about the sequence of the three contracted launches to put up its ViaSat-3 fleet. The first two satellites are being built by Boeing, one of which will cover North and South America and the other to cover Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The company is yet to select a manufacturer for the third ViaSat-3 satellite.

The company’s Falcon Heavy mission is similar to the Atlas 5 mission and plans for a ‘near direct-injection’ into geostationary orbit, with the rocket carrying the satellite closer than usual to its final destination of around 36,000 kilometers above the Earth. The ViaSat-3 satellites use electric propulsion, which reduces the amount of mass taken up by fuel. However, the system requires several months of orbit, which elevates the satellite to reach its final destination once separated from its launcher. The launch by SpaceX will be conducted from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  ViaSat-3 satellites are tasked to redirect capacity to customer locations to avoid stranding beams over empty areas.

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