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The first-ever ViaSat-3 satellite is overcoming pandemic obstacles in preparation for a launch in 2022

ByRoman Frąckiewicz

Dec 31, 2021

Despite continued pandemic-related problems, Viasat’s newly recruited chief operating officer (COO) Kevin Harkenrider said the first-ever ViaSat-3 broadband satellite will deploy in the very first half of 2022. The Viasat-built payload for the high-throughput satellite has been combined with a Boeing chassis for testing that will proceed into early 2022, Harkenrider said in an interview with SpaceNews, ahead of deployment on the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.

Harkenrider began working at Viasat in October 2006 as executive vice president in charge of the global operations and COO (chief operating officer) prior to being promoted to COO on November 17th. As Viasat prepares to change its company with next-generation ViaSat-3 constellation — as well as the $7.3 billion purchase of British satellite operator Inmarsat — he assumed the responsibilities previously handled by Viasat CEO and president Rick Baldridge.

The “number one objective” for Viasat, according to Harkenrider, is launching the first of 3 Ka-band ViaSat-3 satellites into geostationary orbit in the very first half of 2021, with the goal of providing a terabit or even more of the capacity over South and North America in the second part of the year.

Viasat had hoped to deploy the first-ever ViaSat-3 satellite in 2019, however pre-pandemic issues with an unknown component supplier, as well as production delays relating to COVID-19, pushed the launch date back to 2022. New COVID-19 varieties have caused delays for satellite manufacturers, such as Thales Alenia Space in Europe, which recently informed Telesat that the epidemic is causing delays in the development of Telesat’s $5 billion low-Earth-orbit Telesat Lightspeed broadband network.

Even though “COVID clearly creates complications” for worldwide supply chains as well as domestic operations, Harkenrider believes Viasat and its production partner Boeing have such a good grip on the case, with social distancing as well as other precautionary measures in place at amenities to minimize the chances of infections.

“We’ve been fortunate in avoiding any big disruption,” he continued, “but I don’t want you to believe we’re not aware of it every day.” Viasat previously stated that it plans to launch the second ViaSat-3 satellite, that will serve the Middle East, Europe, and Africa, six months after the ViaSat-3 Americas, and then a 3rd ViaSat-3 for the Asia Pacific six months after that.

Viasat has launch arrangements for the constellation with the United Launch Alliance and Arianespace in addition to SpaceX. As it seeks to enter new geographical areas, Viasat is actively working through regulatory frameworks around the world, according to Harkenrider.

Viasat’s international ambitions are boosted by the acquisition of Inmarsat, which expands the operator’s broadband network over various orbits and frequency bands. While Viasat’s acquisition of WildBlue Communications, a consumer satellite internet operator located in the United States, took just months to finish in 2009, the Inmarsat agreement is far more complicated and requires permission from several parties, including the United Kingdom government.

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