A satellite communications provider, Viasat, based in California, has reached a significant milestone that will bring high-speed broadband to the Arctic. With changing weather patterns drawing attention to the region, Viasat recognizes the growing connectivity needs in the Arctic to serve various sectors, including governments, shipping companies, commercial airlines, and scientists.
Viasat recently completed thermal vacuum testing on a satellite at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Virginia. The satellite will be part of the Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission led by Heosat, a subsidiary of Space Norway. The mission aims to deploy satellites in highly elliptical orbits, a first in satellite deployment. These satellites, named ASBM-1 and ASBM-2, will host Viasat’s GX-10a and GX-10b Ka-band payloads, expanding the company’s high-speed network across the Arctic region.
Mark Dickinson, Viasat’s Head of Space Systems, emphasized the investment made in their network, enabling them to connect customers wherever and whenever they need it, even in remote areas such as the North Pole. Kjell-Ove Skare, a program director for Space Norway, expressed optimism about the mission, stating that it brings broadband services to real users in the Arctic through a collaborative effort with Viasat, the U.S. Space Force, the Norwegian Armed Forces, and Northrop Grumman.
Apart from commercial broadband payloads, the satellites will also host payloads for the Norwegian Armed Forces and the U.S. Space Force. With the thermal vacuum testing phase completed, the satellites will now undergo their final phase of testing.
In response to the increasing importance of the Arctic, Viasat’s announcement highlighted that the UK’s environmental audit committee has called for further research and political focus on the region’s potential environmental and economic impacts caused by changing weather patterns.
Once testing is complete, the satellites will be transferred to Vandenberg Space Force Base in California for launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in mid-2024. This achievement marks a significant step forward in providing high-speed broadband to the Arctic and meeting the connectivity needs of various stakeholders.