Viasat said it would share more information during the company’s earnings call next month.

Claudia Adrien

July 24, 2023

7 Slides

A new Viasat satellite launched in April with high hopes it would provide substantially more internet connectivity to the United States. However, as was discovered earlier this month, the mission to unfurl the ViaSat-3 Americas satellite’s large mesh antenna went awry, materially impacting the performance of the satellite, according to Viasat officials.

Ars Technica reported that the satellite is “one of the most powerful commercial spacecraft ever built, with two solar array wings as wide as a Boeing 767 jetliner capable of generating more than 30 kilowatts of electricity.”

In a statement to Channel Futures, Viasat said: “We had an unexpected event during the deployment of one of the [satellite’s] reflectors which may materially impact the ViaSat-3 Americas satellite. Our team is working very closely with our reflector manufacturer to take corrective action.”

Yet, they are still in the early stages of working through the event and its root cause and expect to gather additional data in the coming weeks. Viasat said they would share more information during the company’s earnings call next month.

New Viasat Satellite Costs, Concerns, Hopes

The cost of the new Viasat satellite mission was $700 million, but the company is insured for only $420 million.

When Channel Futures sat down with Tessley Smith, the company’s director of business sales, earlier this summer, we didn’t know the issues surrounding the satellite.

At the time, Smith discussed the future of Viasat’s channel initiatives and how they would play out considering the launch of ViaSat-3. The goals the company envisions for the channel may very well be a reality, with or without the satellite getting repaired.

Viasat’s biggest claim to fame may be that it provides communications services to Air Force One. In this interview with Channel Futures, Smith talks about that. However, the real story is how this multibillion-dollar global company is offering high-speed satellite internet that can connect people where other companies can’t. This is a big feat as there are, according to the FCC, still 19 million people in the U.S. that can’t get internet with broadband speeds. So Viasat’s primary goal is to connect the unconnected, whether that’s in the U.S. or internationally, Smith said.

Tessley-Smith.jpg

Viasat’s Tessley Smith

Smith has been on the job for 10 months. In that time, a lot has occurred, such as the launch (literally) of the company’s ViaSat-3 constellation, a next-generation ultra-high capacity, Ka-band satellite which is expected to enable billions – those in homes, businesses, on planes and at sea, and in off-the-grid communities – connect to information.

“We’re going to be able to play in a lot of areas maybe we didn’t in the past,” Smith said of the new satellite.

How does the channel and partners fit into the equation? Smith delves into that and how that channel is evolving for Viasat, including tripling the size of the company’s partner program.

CF: I don’t want to harp too much on the pandemic and supply chains because everybody in the in the channel had some kind of impact with supply chains. Can you safely say some of those issues have been resolved?

TS: The pandemic impacted supply chains, and therefore kind of made things a little bit longer than typical were we not in a pandemic. So that’s kind of the one thing to think about. So moving forward as we move to deploy ViaSat-3 EMEA and then ViaSat-3 APAC, we anticipate those production cycles to be getting shorter and shorter.

See the slideshow above for the rest of our Q&A with Smith and our conversation about the new Viasat satellite.

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email Claudia Adrien or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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Claudia Adrien

Claudia Adrien is a reporter for Channel Futures where she covers breaking news. Prior to Informa, she wrote about biosecurity and infectious disease for a national publication. She holds a degree in journalism from the University of Florida and resides in Tampa.

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