Wednesday, April 17, 2024

BlueWalker 3: Huge satellite fully deployed, soon visible in this country


The American company AST SpaceMobile deployed the giant communications satellite BlueWalker 3 two months after its launch. Based on initial observations, it is now one of the brightest objects in the night sky. With an area of ​​64 m², its antenna is the largest of all commercial communications satellites ever placed in low Earth orbit. According to initial reports by astronomers, it now has an apparent magnitude of up to +1, which means that only about 15 stars and five planets (as well as the moon) would be brighter in the sky. Meanwhile, AST SpaceMobile celebrates the completion of construction in orbit. It is a milestone and paves the way for more such satellites.

BlueWalker 3 is a test satellite that aims to prepare for the construction of the “first and only space-based broadband network for conventional smartphones.” In the future, at least 100 of these giant satellites will orbit the Earth and deliver broadband Internet to underserved areas. The satellites are designed to connect directly to traditional smartphones to provide a broadband Internet connection, the company said. Therefore, the technology differs significantly from the satellite emergency call, such as the one introduced by Apple, for example. It is only intended for emergencies and has very little bandwidth. In the tests now planned in Africa, among other places, AST SpaceMobile is cooperating with Vodafone, for example. A satellite like BlueWalker 3 could cover almost 800,000 km², explain the group.

Given the satellite’s huge antenna, there were initial fears that light pollution in the night sky would increase with it. SpaceX’s huge network of Starlink satellites has caused discontent among astronomers for years. Shortly after the launch of BlueWalker 3, it was said that the satellite could become the brightest object in the sky, except for the moon. This probably hasn’t come true yet. On the American portal Spaceweathergallery there is satellite images Y reports an apparent magnitude of up to +1. That would make BlueWalker 3 as bright as the stars Antares and Aldebaran. Therefore, it has already been sighted from Portugal and the US, and there will be visible flybys from Germany. according to Heavens Above give from next Sunday.

AST SpaceMobile is reportedly even planning to later send satellites twice the size into space. Currently there are no regulations worldwide that prevent this, objects that are too bright are not prohibited. Satellites like those from Starlink and now BlueWalker are likely to make certain astronomical observations difficult, but also the cloudless view of the starry sky could be a thing of the past for the foreseeable future. There are always warnings about it, but at the moment it does not seem that anything is going to be done about it. There are no intergovernmental or international agreements in sight and the construction of satellite networks continues unabated.


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Ebenezer Robbins
Ebenezer Robbins
Introvert. Beer guru. Communicator. Travel fanatic. Web advocate. Certified alcohol geek. Tv buff. Subtly charming internet aficionado.

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