BlueWalker-3 LEO satellite in orbit operated by AST SpaceMobile
The BlueWalker-3 LEO satellite in orbit is operated by AST SpaceMobile. The satellite was launched on September 10th, 2022 by launch operator SpaceX as a passenger with the Starlink 4-2 mission, from the Cape Canaveral launch base in Florida, USA. The BlueWalker-3 LEO satellite launch was originally scheduled on March 2022 but delayed due to supply chain issues.
BlueWalker-3 is AST SpaceMobile’s prototype satellite and is designed to operate directly with standard, unmodified mobile devices. The spacecraft was built with an aperture of 693 square feet to establish connectivity directly with cell phones via 3GPP-standard frequencies. BlueWalker-3 is a predecessor to planned commercial satellites called BlueBirds.
AST SpaceMobile is a public company that is building the first broadband satellite network to connect directly with smartphones. The company plans a network of 20 LEO satellites (BlueBirds) and doesn’t require special equipment to cover 49 of the largest countries in equatorial regions, including a number of markets in Africa.
The company is based in Midland, Texas in the USA and is operating in collaboration with mobile phone operator Vodafone.
AST SpaceMobile’s first test satellite, BlueWalker-1, built by Lithuanian company NanoAvionics, was launched in April 2019 on a PSLV launch vehicle operated by ISRO from India. The spacecraft was released into a lower than planned orbit due to a delayed deployment. This reduced the orbital life time slightly. The satellite proved that it could link directly to cellphones.