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The antenna did not open: the most powerful American communications satellite encountered technical problems

    ViaSat-3 Americas antenna disclosure problems could result in the largest insurance payout in space history.

    What happened

    Viasat has encountered unforeseen problems deploying the main antenna on its new ViaSat-3 Americas satellite. If this problem is not solved, it can lead to insurance payouts for a record amount.

    What is known about the satellite

    On May 1, 2023, ViaSat-3 was successfully launched on a Falcon Heavy rocket and placed into geostationary orbit at 88.9°W.

    ViaSat-3 is a powerful communications satellite developed by Boeing. It has a mass of 6.7 tons and the size of a bus. Its main objective is to provide a bandwidth of 3 terabits per second, which exceeds the capacity of Viasat’s current satellite fleet by 500%. Throughput is achieved through a huge antenna, one of the largest ever installed on a telecommunications satellite. To ensure its performance, the satellite was equipped with a block of eight solar panels, 44 meters long, which corresponds to the length of the Boeing 767 aircraft. However, after the successful launch of the device into orbit, problems arose with the deployment of its main antenna.

    Current situation and possible measures

    Representatives of Viasat do not disclose details, but emphasize that the problem is serious. Now the operator’s engineers and technicians are looking for solutions to deploy the antenna. Viasat is also consulting with the antenna manufacturer to find ways to successfully deploy it.

    At the same time, the company is also developing an action plan to minimize possible economic losses. One option is to relocate the company’s other satellites and redistribute the next ViaSat-3 class to provide additional capacity in the Americas.

    ViaSat-3 Americas
    This is what the satellite antenna looks like when unfolded

    Consequences and insurance

    If the problem with ViaSat-3 cannot be fixed, Viasat could file a record $420 million claim against the insurance company. This will be the largest case in the history of space exploration when insurance payments reach such proportions.

    However, Viasat is making every effort to solve the problem and minimize the possible consequences of this unforeseen situation.