Viasat secures ULA as third launch partner for ViaSat-3 constellation

Viasat now holds launch contracts for all three satellites of its upcoming ViaSat-3 constellation. The company announced today that United Launch Alliance (ULA) will carry one of the three satellites into orbit between 2020 to 2022 on an Atlas 5 rocket. This mission will launch aboard an Atlas V 551 configuration vehicle, the largest in the Atlas V fleet. The 551 configuration provides the performance to deliver a ViaSat-3 satellite into a high-energy geostationary transfer orbit where it can begin on-orbit operations faster than with other available launch vehicles, according to Viasat. Arianespace and SpaceX each also hold a launch contract from the company, meaning the three satellites are expected to launch on three different rocket types.

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The company highlighted the multiple launch partners in a statement, noting that it “is designed to ensure the on-time launch of all of the ViaSat-3 spacecraft through launch vehicle diversity and an integrated approach to launch planning.” Specific assignments of which satellite will launch on which rocket will be made at a later date.

Viasat’s upcoming ViaSat-3 constellation is expected to deliver more than 1 terabit/second of capacity on each of the three satellites using Ka-band spectrum. The company will deliver a global footprint at that time with more capacity than any other single-vendor network when complete.

The February 2016 announcement of the the ViaSat-3 constellation included a firm commitment for the Americas and EMEA pair to launch. More recently Viasat committed to including the Asia-Pacific satellite, even while lacking an anchor-tenant to partner with on the expense of such. In the intervening time the company says it has significantly improved the technology platform involved in the ViaSat-3 architecture, delivering a different design for that third satellite. The net result is what CEO Mark Dankberg says “will increase the capacity pretty meaningfully from what we were able to do with the first two.” Just how much and in what ways will that increase be seen? When pressed for details he declined, “We are still working on design details and the resulting capacity and do not have any specific capacity data to share at this time.”

Today’s launch partner news follows on the company’s announcement two weeks ago of the Boeing 702 satellite core infrastructure’s arrival at Viasat’s Tempe, Arizona facility where the payload will be assembled. In a somewhat unique arrangement Viasat handles the satellite payload construction, integration and testing on the Boeing platform.

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