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.
The second test satellite, BlueWalker-2, was cancelled.
In September 2022, after 5 months delay, AST SpaceMobile launched its first demo satellite, BlueWalker-3, on a Falcon 9 rocket operated by launch operator SpaceX. The 1,500kgs weighing satellite has a 64 sqm phased array antenna for testing communications with smartphones and other devices at broadband speeds. The company secured earlier an experimental license from the FCC to test connection to the satellite from Hawaii and Texas USA.
The company describes itself as an ‘early-stage’ company and has incurred net losses of approximately 70.5 million USD from its inception through December 31st, 2021 and it may never become profitable.
The company was founded in May 2017 by Abel Avellan (CEO) as AST & Science. Avellan has over 25 years of success in the space industry and is an inventor on 24 U.S. patents. He was the recipient of the Satellite Transaction of the Year award by Euroconsult in 2015 and was named Satellite Teleport Executive of the Year in 2017. Prior to founding AST, Avellan served as the founder and CEO of EMC (Global Eagle/Anuvu), a satellite-based communications services provider to maritime and other mobility markets.
On April 1st 2019 AST SpaceMobile’s first test satellite, BlueWalker-1, built by Lithuanian company NanoAvionics, was launched 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.
In September 2019 the company raised additional financing thru a new created investing company, New Providence, that was created as a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC).
In March 2020, mobile phone company Vodafone and the Tokyo-based electronic commerce and online retailing company Rakuten invested in the company.
In March 2022 AST SpaceMobile signed a multi-launch agreement with SpaceX for launching the first BlueBird satellites in 2023. The agreement provides a framework for ordering additional launches until the end of 2024.
In April 2021, the company changed its name to AST SpaceMobile and went public when listed on the Nasdaq.
In July 28th, 2022 the company signed a five-year 4G and 5G contract with telecom operator Nokia providing equipment including base stations and network management and optimization as well as technical support services.
On September 10th, 2022 launch operator SpaceX orbited the BlueWalker-3 satellite as a passenger with the Starlink 4-2 mission, from the Cape Canaveral launch base in Florida, USA. The launch was originally scheduled on March 2022 but delayed due to supply chain issues.
|Satellite Operator||Mission||Launch Date||Launcher||Launch Operator|
|BlueWalker-1||PSLV-C45/EMISAT||April 1st, 2019||PSLV||ISRO India|
|BlueWalker-3||Starlink 4-2||Sept 10th, 2022||Falcon 9||SpaceX USA|
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Satellites manufactured by AST SpaceMobile
AST SpaceMobile BlueBird LEO satellite constellation