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Viasat's second Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission satellite completes thermal vacuum test

Viasat's second satellite in the upcoming Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission has completed thermal vacuum testing at Northrop Grumman’s Dulles, Virginia, site, marking a significant milestone as the project looks to connect the Arctic region with high speed broadband in the second half of 2024.

Image courtesy Viasat

The mission, led by the Space Norway subsidiary Heosat, will see two satellites deployed in a highly elliptical orbit (HEO) in the world’s first HEO mission carrying a broadband commercial service payload. The two satellites – ASBM-1 and ASBM-2 – will host Viasat’s GX-10a and GX-10b Ka-band payloads, extending Viasat’s high-speed global network across the Arctic region.

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The spacecraft are designed to integrate as part of Viasat’s wider satellite fleet and extend the coverage of its Ka-band network beyond that available from geostationary satellites. The payloads will be Viasat’s first in non-geostationary orbit and will become a key element of its co-operative hybrid network. Once launched, these new payloads will increase Viasat’s fleet size to 20, with an additional eight under development.

The Arctic has rapidly growing connectivity needs to serve governments, shipping companies, commercial airlines and scientists. In October 2023, the UK Government’s Environmental Audit Committee called for a greater political focus on the region and further research into the potential for environmental and economic impacts of changing weather patterns. Alongside GX10a and b, the spacecraft will host payloads for the Norwegian Armed Forces and the US Space Force.

Mark Dickinson, Head of Space Systems, Viasat, said: “We have been talking with our customers, partners and shareholders about how the combination with Inmarsat has given us a new scale and scope to deliver new solutions to meet our customers’ requirements. This is an example of what that means in practice. The investment we’ve made in our network is creating the flexibility, coverage and interoperability to meaningfully connect the world wherever and whenever our customers need it – even if they happen to be standing on the North Pole.”

Space Norway Programme Director, Kjell-Ove Skare, said: “With both satellites through the thermal vacuum test we are really closing in on making this strategically important capability real. We have seen an unprecedented collaborative effort with Viasat, the US Space Force, our Norwegian Armed Forces and with Northrop Grumman and are all looking forward to providing the first dedicated broadband services to users in the real Arctic.”

The ASBM-1 and ASBM-2 spacecraft will now undergo their final testing and readiness activities. Once complete, they will be transferred to Vandenberg Space Force Base, California and launched together on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in mid-2024. The company will share further details on the launch schedule once confirmed.

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