AST SpaceMobile showcases satellite manufacturing facility in video tour


AST SpaceMobile CEO Abel Avellan, left, shows a link antenna for the BlueWalker 3 satellite. Screenshot via AST SpaceMobile / YouTube

AST Mobile Space shared a glimpse of the company’s Midland, Texas satellite manufacturing facility in a video posted Wednesday. National Geographic documentary host Jason Silva toured the facilities with CEO Abel Avellan.

The video did not show the BlueWalker 3 satellite in its entirety – the company said in a recent quarterly update that the satellite was in the final stages of integration and testing – but showed how antennas are assembled in microns, installations test station and the gateway antenna that will be on board the satellite.

AST SpaceMobile is building BlueWalker 3, which will be used to establish a space-cell network. The satellite is a massive 693-square-foot phased array, which must be folded up to fit the launcher’s fairing and then deployed into space.

The video showed what she called a micron array, the unit that makes up the great phased array. An array of microns is made up of many small antennas assembled on a tile. The video showed a brief demonstration of how the micron arrays will be bent in order to tidy up for launch.

Avellan highlighted how inexpensive the AST SpaceMobile design is: “This module is what makes our satellites so cost effective that we can build hundreds of thousands of them. The trick to making a satellite at this price is that each satellite is built from identical modules, ”Avellan said. “[With] old-fashioned satellites, everything is unique and different. They have their own solar panels, buses and batteries. We have none of that. The end product, which is a phased array, is the cornerstone of the satellite. ”

An AST SpaceMobile micron matrix. Screenshot via AST SpaceMobile / YouTube

Avellan also showed a link antenna, one of several that will be on the satellite, during temperature tests. This antenna will follow the footbridges on the ground. The video also showed an example of gateway antennas like the ones that will be placed around the world to connect to network partners.

AST SpaceMobile is targeting launch in the summer of 2022, subject to SpaceX for the final launch window. The satellite was scheduled to launch with SpaceX between March 1, 2022 and April 30, 2022, but AST SpaceMobile postponed the launch for more time for assembly, testing and final preparation.

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