Satellite comms firm Viasat has successfully hurled ViaSat-3 Americas into orbit, the first of three satellites designed to offer high speed global broadband coverage.

Andrew Wooden

May 2, 2023

3 Min Read
viasat launch

Satellite comms firm Viasat has successfully hurled ViaSat-3 Americas into orbit, the first of three satellites designed to offer high speed global broadband coverage.

The satellite ascended to the heavens on Sunday courtesy of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy, launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Around four hours later the satellite separated from the launch vehicle and the first signals from it were acquired approximately 15 minutes later through a ground station in South Korea.

In the next few days ViaSat-3 Americas will deploy its solar arrays and drift to its final orbital location, which should take less than three weeks. Viasat is then targeting service launch by the middle of this year.

We’re told the ViaSat-3 class of Ka-band satellites are capable of delivering over 1tbps of throughput capacity with dynamic flexibility to move and concentrate where it’s most needed at the time, whether that’s at land, sea or air.

As you can probably tell from the name, this satellite in particular is designed to cover the Americas region, while a second will cover EMEA and is currently in environmental testing in Boeing’s El Segundo, California factory. A third has completed final payload integration and testing at Viasat’s Tempe, Arizona facility and will focus on the Asia Pacific region. When they are all in place Viasat says that will complete its global service coverage.

“Today’s successful launch of ViaSat-3 Americas opens a new chapter in Viasat’s growth,” said Mark Dankberg, Viasat’s chairman and CEO. “This first Americas satellite will multiply our available bandwidth, and enable faster speeds and more coverage – especially for our mobility customers. It’s not just a new satellite, it’s a new way to build broadband satellites. Thanks so much to all our people, and our partners, for their commitment and dedication to getting this done.”

Back in March the UK’s competition watchdog the Competition and Markets Authority provisionally concluded that Viasat’s $7.3 billion acquisition of fellow satellite comms firm Inmarsat won’t harm competition in the satellite sector, seemingly changing its mind having previously offered the opposite position the previous October.

What Inmarset deals is in Low Earth Orbit satellites as opposed to GEO satellites like these ViaSat-3 units. The difference is basically the former are smaller, cheaper, last less time, and require a lot of them working together in constellations to provide coverage, whereas Viasat is promising global coverage with three of the GEO satellites in this announcement.

While there seems to be plenty of activity and money in the satellite comms market – with a lot of LEO launches in particular happening – there have also been a few casualties, most recently with Virgin Orbit which ultimately couldn’t maintain enough funding to continue operating after a failed launch.

There are many, many firms now involved in satellite-based comms but it’s not clear precisely how big the market will end up being, and what the specific advantages are where terrestrial and fixed coverage is already well established. Having a footing in both LEO and GEO approaches would presumably leave Viasat firm in a better position to capitalise on whatever form the sector evolves into in the coming years.


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About the Author(s)

Andrew Wooden

Andrew joins on the back of an extensive career in tech journalism and content strategy.

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