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Space-based mobile network test satellite set for launch

14 Jun 2022Technology news
2 minute read

Vodafone Group partner, AST SpaceMobile, which is building the first and only space-based cellular network accessible directly from standard mobile phones, has confirmed it plans to launch its BlueWalker 3 test satellite during the week of August 15, 2022.

The actual launch date remains subject to change and is contingent on a number of factors including, but not limited to, final testing, final integration, ground transport, timely readiness of the launch vehicle and other unknowns including, but not limited to, weather conditions or technical problems.

AST SpaceMobile is designing a planned satellite constellation that aims to directly connect to cell phones around the globe, including markets where we operate in Africa such as Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ghana, Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia, subject to regulatory approval and other requirements.

BlueWalker 3 carries a 693-square-foot phased array that is designed to test cellular broadband communications directly with standard mobile phones, from space, for the first time. AST SpaceMobile has invested approximately US$85 million (~€81.3 million) in the satellite’s development and the company’s engineers have successfully conducted more than 800 ground tests with BlueWalker 3.

The BlueWalker 3 mission is expected to complete the company’s initial research and development program and facilitate integration testing with mobile network operators including Vodafone.

Abel Avellan, Chairman and CEO of AST SpaceMobile said: “The launch of BlueWalker 3 is the culmination of years of effort by our engineers to let us test connecting the phone in your pocket, with no modifications to the phone, directly with one of our satellites in space.

“This revolutionary technology supports our mission to eliminate the connectivity gaps faced by more than 5 billion mobile subscribers today moving in and out of coverage, and bring cellular broadband to approximately half of the world’s population who remain unconnected. We want to close the gap between the digital ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.”

The launch of the test satellite will take place from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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