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ESA enters £60m deal with Viasat to launch satellite with highest-ever data capacity

Image credit: ViaSat

The European Space Agency (ESA) has entered into a €68m (£60m) deal with ViaSat to build a new super-high data capacity satellite that will bring Wi-Fi to planes and fast broadband to areas currently languishing with slow internet speeds.

The ViaSat-3 satellite will supposedly be the highest capacity communications satellite ever built and will be able to serve millions of European consumers.

ViaSat-2 (pictured above) was sent into orbit above the Americas in June to bring internet connections to plane passengers. The company entered into agreements with a number of airlines including Icelandair.

More than 6,000 commercial aircraft worldwide were offering an on-board Wi-Fi service in 2016. It is expected that more than 17,000 will be doing so by 2021.

ViaSat-3 will be stationed above Europe and boasts even greater data throughputs than its predecessor.

Each ViaSat-3 satellite will offer over 1-Terabit per second (Tbps) of network capacity, which is comparable to the total capacity of all commercial satellites in space today.

It should allow European users to access 100+ Megabits per second (Mbps) broadband speeds in their own home.

The €68m deal will initially see the ESA and ViaSat develop two key components of the ViaSat-3 satellite ground segment.

This includes fixed and mobile user terminals for use in residential broadband, in-flight Wi-Fi and connected car applications.

They are also working on ground segment equipment and gateways for the ViaSat-3 network, which include the Satellite Access Node (SAN) subsystems for a cloud-based ground network infrastructure.

“The public private partnership with ViaSat will bring ESA and industry together to quickly develop broadband products that will serve the needs of millions of consumers across Europe who are currently without adequate internet service,” said Magali Vaissiere, ESA’s director of telecommunications.

“We believe this is a significant industrial opportunity that will keep Europe at the forefront of satellite and broadband technology development, giving Europe a leading position on the deployment of a next-generation broadband system with advanced ground networks and consumer equipment.”

ViaSat Chairman and CEO, Mark Dankberg continued, “ESA aims to foster space innovation and promote a strong space economy. As a global company with a growing presence in Europe, we are proud to partner and tap into the space interests of ESA, the Member States and European industry. Our new Public Private Partnership with ESA will develop and bring-to-market new satellite-based broadband technologies to ensure European citizens have access to affordable, high-quality internet services.”

Earlier this year Engineers at Purdue University, USA, demonstrated a new satellite propulsion system involving the release of water vapour from nozzles to steer the small spacecraft. 

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