Space mobile phone network AST SpaceMobile signs launch agreement with rocket company Elon Musk SpaceX
A company building what is believed to be the only space-based mobile phone network has signed a multi-launch deal with Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
Texas-based AST SpaceMobile, which has its UK base in the new Space Park Leicester, has reached an agreement with the Tesla co-founder’s rocket company for a planned summer launch of its BlueWalker 3 test satellite and for the future launches of its BlueBird satellites.
AST SpaceMobile wants to put 170 satellites into low orbit to create a space-based cellular broadband network for the 5 billion mobile phone users who lack permanent ground coverage.
Last June, UK chief executive Stephen Gibson told BusinessLive that his satellites could provide the primary mobile signal for parts of the developing world with limited or no wireless and mobile infrastructure, and fill gaps in the developed world where existing mobile signals are interrupted.
At the time, Mr Gibson said the group was talking to the next generation of commercial space transportation companies to find the best deal to get its hardware off the ground.
The company has now revealed it hopes to launch the BlueWalker 3 satellite – which can communicate directly with mobile phones using standard frequencies – on a SpaceX Falcon 9 vehicle from Cape Canaveral this summer.
Abel Avellan, Founder, President and CEO of AST SpaceMobile, said, “This agreement secures availability for reliable launch of our first production satellites outside of the United States.
“Our summer launch of BlueWalker 3 will complement the development phase of our business.
“We have also industrialized our technology and prepared the launch of the BlueBird satellites, this agreement being a key step.”
BlueBird satellites are designed to deliver high-speed Internet access directly to cell phones, without any additional hardware or software on the phone.
At full capacity, AST SpaceMobile will be able to assemble up to six BlueBird satellites per month at its manufacturing facilities in Texas.
It partners with global wireless infrastructure companies including Rakuten Mobile, Vodafone and American Tower.