After some political unrest that delayed the launch of our latest satellite, ViaSat-2, we’re happy to report that the launch has been set for June 1. The satellite will greatly expand the capacity we have for our Exede Internet service, resulting in faster speeds, better data plans and greater coverage.
There are many things that can delay the launch of a satellite, but there wasn’t much we could do about the people of French Guiana protesting against the French government. (If you’re curious, you can read more about it here.) We’re just happy to be back on track and looking forward to having ViaSat-2 teed up for the next leg of its journey. Here’s what it’s looked like so far:
Early in the morning of March 16, ViaSat-2, was loaded onto an enormous Antonov AN-124 cargo plane at Los Angeles International Airport. The destination: Kourou, French Guiana — a trip of about 4,700 miles. Now scheduled to be launched into space on June 1, ViaSat-2 will ultimately be in orbit about 22,300 miles above the equator. It’s a long trip!
Here are a few things to know about ViaSat-2:
- ViaSat-2 has more than twice the capacity of ViaSat-1, and it covers 7 times the area — including the Continental U.S., Mexico and Central America, the Caribbean, and air and maritime routes across the Atlantic to Europe.
- Up until last week, very few people have seen it, including most of us here at ViaSat. Until the latest edition of Aviation Week was published last week, we haven’t released any photos of the new satellite, but now we’re showing it in all its glory In the three years it took to design and build, all work was performed in a secure location at Boeing in El Segundo, CA.
- The satellite will be launched by Arianespace, a French company that specializes in launching large satellites like ours. Based in Paris, Arianespace operates out of the Guiana Space Center, a busy spaceport in French Guiana, located at the top of South America on the Atlantic Ocean just north of the Equator.
- The rocket — or launch vehicle — putting our satellite into space is the Ariane 5. With more than 75 successful launches in a row since 2003, the Ariane 5 is a reliable workhorse capable of launching up to 10 tons into orbit.
- It’s typical with the Ariane 5 to be paired with another satellite. Our “launch buddy” is Eutelsat 172B, another communications satellite.
- ViaSat-2 will get dropped off by Ariane 5 a few hundred miles above the Earth. From there, it will begin its journey to orbit 22,300 miles up at 69.9 degrees west, its pre-assigned orbital slot as designated by the ITU. A specialized agency of the United Nations, the ITU is the international governing body that keeps track of the world’s satellites.
- While ViaSat-1 and ViaSat-2 both use hybrid chemical and electric propulsion, ViaSat-2 is more electric. ViaSat-1 performed all of its orbit raising chemically, while ViaSat-2 performs most of its orbit raising electrically. Performing the great majority of orbit raising electrically allowed us to put more capacity-generating equipment in the satellite. The tradeoff is that it’s a little slower, meaning ViaSat-2 won’t reach its orbital slot for a few months.
- Once launched, ViaSat-2 will be the highest-capacity communications satellite in the world.
- Service from ViaSat-2 will be introduced in early 2018, and we’ll have more details as we get closer.