Tag Archive for: SpaceX

A 5G phone call to an ordinary smartphone in a cellular dead zone was demonstrated by AST SpaceMobile which has achieved a significant milestone with its Blue Walker 3 test satellite. Here are the key points regarding this development:

  1. Successful 5G Phone Call: AST SpaceMobile’s Blue Walker 3 test satellite, which has been in orbit for a year, successfully relayed a 5G phone call to a Samsung Galaxy S22 smartphone in a cellular dead zone near Hana, Hawaii. The call connected an engineer in Hawaii with another engineer in Spain for nearly two minutes.
  2. Improved Download Speeds: In addition to the 5G phone call, AST SpaceMobile reported improved download speeds compared to previous tests. Download rates reached around 14 megabits per second, surpassing the 10 Mbps speeds recorded over 4G in June. This indicates progress in enhancing satellite-based connectivity.
  3. Launch Plans: AST SpaceMobile plans to launch its first five commercial satellites, known as Block 1 BlueBird, to low Earth orbit (LEO) early next year on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. These satellites are expected to provide intermittent connectivity for initial device-monitoring services.
  4. Global 5G Service: The company is seeking funds to develop more powerful BlueBird satellites that would enable a global 5G service, extending connectivity beyond terrestrial cell towers. To achieve global coverage, AST SpaceMobile envisions deploying around 90 BlueBird satellites.
  5. Spectrum and Regulation: The 5G tests conducted by AST SpaceMobile used wireless spectrum from AT&T, and the company is in the process of seeking permission to lease terrestrial frequencies from AT&T on a commercial basis in the United States. The company, like other direct-to-device players, is also awaiting a regulatory framework from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to govern the emerging industry.

AST SpaceMobile‘s successful 5G phone call via satellite represents a significant step toward enabling global 5G connectivity, particularly in areas with limited terrestrial infrastructure. The company’s plans for launching additional satellites and regulatory developments will play a crucial role in realizing this vision of ubiquitous connectivity.

The direct-to-device market, which involves satellite-based communication services delivered directly to consumer devices, is seeing divergent opinions on its growth potential. Here are key points regarding this market and the differing views presented:

  1. Market Overview: The direct-to-device market involves providing satellite-based communication services directly to consumer devices, such as smartphones, without the need for specialized equipment like satellite phones. Companies like Lynk Global, AST SpaceMobile, Globalstar, and Iridium Communications are active players in this space.
  2. Lynk’s Optimistic Outlook: Charles Miller, the CEO of Lynk Global, suggested that the direct-to-device market could achieve annual revenues of $1 billion in less than five years. Lynk currently operates with a small constellation of LEO (Low Earth Orbit) spacecraft and focuses on services like text messaging and emergency alerts.
  3. Iridium’s Conservative View: Suzi McBride, the Chief Operating Officer of Iridium Communications, took a more cautious stance, estimating that it would “take a good 10 years” for the market to reach the $1 billion annual revenue milestone. Iridium has a long history of providing satellite communications to specialized handsets.
  4. Diverse Approaches: Various satellite operators are taking different approaches to tap into the direct-to-device market. Some are leveraging their existing infrastructure and spectrum, while others are planning large-scale satellite constellations designed specifically for this purpose.
  5. Market Dynamics: The growth of the direct-to-device market depends on several factors, including the development of user-friendly devices, regulatory frameworks, consumer adoption, and competition from terrestrial networks, especially in densely populated areas.

In summary, the direct-to-device satellite communication market is characterized by diverse strategies and differing views on its growth trajectory. While some are optimistic about rapid expansion, others take a more cautious and longer-term perspective. The market’s evolution will likely be influenced by a range of factors, including technological advancements, regulatory decisions, and competitive dynamics.

“Direct-to-device” communication in the context of satellite technology is a significant and evolving topic with a potentially substantial market impact. This communication approach involves sending data, content, or services directly to user devices, such as smartphones, without the need for intermediary ground-based infrastructure or additional user equipment. Here are some key points to consider regarding direct-to-device satellite communication:

  1. Market Potential: The direct-to-device satellite communication market holds immense potential, with estimates of its value reaching up to $100 billion. This potential is driven by various factors, including the growing demand for connectivity in remote or underserved areas, disaster response and recovery efforts, IoT applications, and more.
  2. Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Satellites: The rise of LEO satellite constellations, such as SpaceX and OneWeb, is a driving force behind the concept of direct-to-device communication. LEO satellites operate at lower altitudes, reducing latency and enabling direct communication with user devices.
  3. Reduced Latency: Direct-to-device communication via LEO satellites can significantly reduce latency compared to traditional geostationary satellites. This low-latency connectivity is essential for applications like online gaming, video conferencing, and real-time IoT data transmission.
  4. Global Coverage: Direct-to-device satellite networks aim to provide global coverage, extending connectivity to remote and rural areas that lack terrestrial infrastructure. This has the potential to bridge the digital divide and bring the benefits of the internet to underserved populations.
  5. Challenges: While direct-to-device satellite communication offers numerous advantages, it also comes with challenges. These include regulatory issues, spectrum management, satellite constellation deployment, cost-effectiveness, and competition with existing terrestrial networks.
  6. Emerging Applications: Beyond traditional internet access, direct-to-device satellite communication can support a wide range of applications, including disaster management, environmental monitoring, precision agriculture, and autonomous vehicles.
  7. Economic Impact: The success of direct-to-device satellite communication could have a substantial economic impact, fostering innovation, creating job opportunities, and stimulating economic growth in various sectors.

Therefore, direct-to-device satellite communication represents a significant shift in how we think about connectivity, with the potential to reshape industries, bridge connectivity gaps, and create new opportunities for businesses and individuals. However, its success depends on addressing technical, regulatory, and economic challenges while capitalizing on the advantages it offers in terms of global coverage and low latency.

The global satellite services market is poised for growth in the coming years, with expectations of its value increasing from $107 billion in 2022 to $123 billion by 2032, according to projections by Euroconsult. Key insights from this forecast include:

  1. Data Services Surge: Data services revenues are expected to experience significant growth, nearly tripling from $19 billion in 2022 to $53 billion in 2032. This surge is indicative of the increasing demand for data connectivity, driven by applications like IoT, data analytics, and global internet access.
  2. Video Demand Shift: In contrast, Euroconsult foresees a slight dip in video demand, with revenues decreasing by about 20 percent from $88 billion in 2022 to $70 billion in 2032. This shift may be attributed to changing consumer preferences, including the rise of streaming services and on-demand content.
  3. Competition and Ecosystem Changes: Despite the overall optimism, the satellite services market is expected to face turbulence due to intense competition and a rapidly evolving ecosystem. The dynamics of the industry are shifting, with the emergence of new satellite constellations and technologies, challenging the established players.
  4. Insurance Impact: Recent anomalies in geostationary orbit, such as issues with satellites like Arcturus, Inmarsat 6 F2, and Viasat-3 Americas, are expected to impact the insurance market. These incidents have raised concerns and could lead to higher insurance costs for satellite operators.

In summary, the satellite services market is poised for growth, driven by increasing demand for data connectivity services. However, the industry faces challenges, including competition, ecosystem changes, and insurance concerns, which could impact its trajectory in the coming years. Nonetheless, satellite technology continues to play a crucial role in global connectivity and data transmission.

The U.S. Space Force has received the 10th and final GPS 3 satellite manufactured by Lockheed Martin under a contract dating back to 2008. Out of the 10 satellites produced, six have already been launched, while the remaining four are stored at a Lockheed Martin facility in Waterton, Colorado, awaiting future launch opportunities.

On February 16, the Space Systems Command announced that it had declared the 10th satellite “available for launch.” GPS 3 satellites are an upgraded version of the U.S. military’s Global Positioning System, providing enhanced positioning, navigation, and timing signals. They offer improved protection against jamming attacks for military users and feature an advanced L1C signal that is compatible with Europe’s Galileo navigation satellites, benefiting civilian users.

Scott Thomas, the GPS 3 program manager at the Space Systems Command, highlighted the significance of completing the 10th satellite, emphasizing its role in modernizing the GPS system. He acknowledged the program’s importance in meeting U.S. national security needs for both military personnel and the billions of users worldwide who rely on GPS services.

The GPS 3 program faced challenges during its production. Lockheed Martin won the competition against Boeing in 2008, but later encountered technical issues with the primary payload, causing production delays. Despite these setbacks, the delivery of the final GPS 3 satellite marks a notable milestone in the ongoing modernization of GPS technology.

Indeed, the GPS 3 satellite program experienced delays in its launch schedule, with the first satellite launching in 2018 instead of the originally projected 2014. Subsequent launches followed in 2019, 2020, 2021, and most recently last month. The launches were conducted using SpaceX Falcon 9 vehicles for five satellites, while the sixth satellite was launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.

As for the seventh GPS 3 satellite, no specific launch date has been announced yet. It is assigned to ULA’s upcoming Vulcan Centaur rocket, which is expected to replace the Atlas 5 in future launches.

Lockheed Martin, the primary contractor for the GPS 3 program, is currently working on an advanced version called GPS 3F. The company’s dominant role in the program led its only competitor, Boeing, to withdraw from the competition to build GPS 3F satellites.

In 2018, Lockheed Martin was awarded a contract worth $7.2 billion for the production of up to 22 GPS 3F satellites. As of now, ten satellites have been ordered under this contract.

With one gesture, SpaceX’s President and COO Gwynne Shotwell gave a glimpse into her perspective ahead of the historic NASA and SpaceX Demo-2 test mission coming up on May 27, in which a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket and travel to the International Space Station (ISS) carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley. SpaceX, NASA Ready

“I’ll feel a little relief when they’re in orbit, and I’ll feel more relief when they get to the station, and then obviously, I will start sleeping again when they’re back safely on planet Earth,” Shotwell said in a Friday press conference previewing the mission.

The May 27 mission will be the first launch of American astronauts aboard an American spacecraft from American soil since the conclusion of the space shuttle era in 2011. It is an end-to-end test mission to demonstrate systems on orbit, docking at the ISS, and descent with crew on board. This is the final flight test for the system to be certified for regular crew flights to the station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

SpaceX received its first NASA Commercial Crew contract in 2011. Shotwell said the SpaceX team has kept the astronauts at the forefront of their minds during this entire process. SpaceX, NASA Ready

“I wanted to make sure everyone at SpaceX understood and knew Bob and Doug as astronauts, as test pilots, badasses — but dads and husbands. I wanted to bring some humanity to this deeply technical effort as well. I’m really excited to fly them here in a few weeks,” she said.

While NASA and Shotwell previewed the mission on Friday morning, SpaceX Founder and Chief Engineer Elon Musk went on Twitter to launch an erratic tweet storm. Musk, who has been openly critical of social distancing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, called for returning people their freedom, said Tesla‘s stock price is too high, and that he is selling nearly all of his physical possessions. He also said his girlfriend, the musician Grimes, was mad at him, quoted the poet Dylan Thomas, and tweeted the lyrics to the “Star Spangled Banner.” Tesla shares dropped after the tweets.

When the rocket takes off on May 27, it will be against the backdrop of the pandemic. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine stressed having our own access to the ISS is a critical capability, as well as having maximum crew on the station, and that remains the same despite the pandemic.

One notable difference is that Americans are being asked to watch the historic launch at home instead of visiting the Kennedy Space Center, which in the past has opened its gates to welcome visitors to watch Space Shuttle launches. SpaceX, NASA Ready

“We’re asking people not to travel to the Kennedy Center, and that makes me sad to even say it,” Breidenstein said. “Boy I wish we could make this into something really spectacular. But where we are at right now, we need to get Commercial Crew launched, we need Demo-2 to be successful, and the best way we can do that is to do it while keeping everybody safe. … We need a spectacular moment that all of America can see, and all of the world can see. To inspire — not just those of us who have been waiting years for this — but to inspire the generations coming. And we need to do it in a way that’s responsible.”

Moving forward, the experts said Commercial Crew flights will increase presence on the ISS and the United State’s research capabilities in space. ISS Program Manager Kirk Shireman said he is looking forward to repeatable, sustainable, Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) Commercial Crew transportation flights, and test flights of varying duration to explore how the human body responds to space.

But Bridenstine said NASA is still negotiating a price to utilize the next Russian Soyuz launch to the ISS in October. The agency will evaluate after Demo-2 if another Soyuz ride will need to be purchased for Spring 2021. Bridenstine said he sees a future where the U.S. and Russia will trade to launch on each other’s vehicles to reach the ISS.

The Administrator cast this upcoming mission as the start of a new era in human spaceflight.

“NASA has long had this idea that we need to purchase, own and operate hardware to get to space — and in the past — that has been true,” Bridenstine said. “Now in this new era, NASA, especially in Low-Earth Orbit, Nasa has an ability to be a customer, one customer of many customers in a robust commercial marketplace in Low-Earth Orbit. But we also want to have numerous providers that are competing against each other on cost and innovation. And that’s really what we are entering into in this new era of human spaceflight.”