A US company just deployed world's largest communication satellite
Bluewalker 3 satellite, a test satellite by Texas-based firm AST SpaceMobile deployed its largest commercial communications array ever flow in space, in low Earth orbit, the company announced on Monday. The satellite was launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in September, Interesting Engineering reported.
The 693-square-foot (64 square meters) array is designed to directly provide 5G broadband connectivity with cellular devices via 3GPP standard frequencies. According to the release, the satellite could have a field of view of over 300,00 square miles on the surface of the Earth.
"Every person should have the right to access cellular broadband, regardless of where they live or work. Our goal is to close the connectivity gaps that negatively impact billions of lives around the world," Abel Avellan, chairman and chief executive officer of AST SpaceMobile, said in a statement.
"The successful unfolding of BlueWalker 3 is a major step forward for our patented space-based cellular broadband technology and paves the way for the ongoing production of our BlueBird satellites," he said.
History is unfolding! We've deployed #BlueWalker3's 693-square-foot array, which is now the largest-ever commercial communications array in low Earth orbit.— AST SpaceMobile (@AST_SpaceMobile) November 14, 2022
Read more about this important milestone here: https://t.co/4kupfxn3vO pic.twitter.com/KnE9CeWOCT
A test program to begin across six continents
AST SpaceMobile said it had "agreements and understandings" with mobile network operators such as Vodafone Group, AT&T, Orange, Africell, Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison, Bell Canada, and others. The company aims to "offer extended cellular broadband coverage to their customers who live, work and travel in areas with poor or non-existent cell coverage, with the goal of eliminating dead zones with cellular broadband from space".
"We want to close coverage gaps in our markets, particularly in territories where the terrain makes it extremely challenging to reach with a traditional ground-based network, ” said Luke Ibbetson, head of group R&D, Vodafone and an AST SpaceMobile director.
Within the next few months, AST SpaceMobile will begin a test program across six continents with some of the aforementioned network operators as long as it continues to secure the necessary regulatory approvals, said the release.
One of the brightest objects in the sky
Earlier, astronomers had expressed their apprehensions about the giant phased array and the upcoming constellation of Bluebirds that would reflect sunlight to Earth, causing blinding streaks across astronomical images and tampering with scientific data. Some experts believed that BlueWalker 3 could become one of the brightest objects in the night sky.
The #BlueWalker3 operator confirms what amateur astronomers had already deduced; that the satellite unfurled its massive antenna, and in the process became one of the brighter objects in the sky when it passes over. https://t.co/UDdsvTzqZ2— Cees Bassa (@cgbassa) November 14, 2022
Astronomer Cees Bassa tweeted that as the satellite unfurled its massive antenna, it became one of the brighter objects in the sky when it passes over.
However, as per initial observations, BlueWalker 3 is bright but not close to the worst-case scenario. Paul Maley of Carefree, Arizona, told SpaceWeather.com that he had seen it four mornings in a row. "It has been about as bright as a 1st magnitude star," he said.