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ViaSat Eyes Big Performance Boost on Next Satellite

The ViaSat-1 satellite. Credit: Space/Systems Loral photo

PARIS — ViaSat Inc.’s next planned Ka-band broadband satellite is expected to provide nearly double the data-delivery capacity of the in-orbit ViaSat-1 spacecraft, whose 135-gigabits-per second throughput rate has already set records, Mark D. Dankberg, the company’s chief executive, said Nov. 30.

In a conference with investors, Dankberg said ViaSat of Carlsbad, Calif., is in apparently complicated discussions with two satellite manufacturers to build ViaSat-2. Dankberg has said the contract would be signed by the end of the year.

“We’re not going to get 10X ViaSat-1, but 2X would be nice,” Dankberg said. “That’s about what we’d like to do, with more volume and higher speeds. One of the big issues is, when you buy these things you have to buy the jumbo economy size to get the unit price you want. So it’s a big capital project.”

Asked why ViaSat was not supplying high-throughput ground equipment for the U.S. Defense Department’s Blue Force Tracking system — ViaSat holds the ground system contract for this — Dankberg said the government’s procurement process is a mess and appears unable to take advantage of advances in the commercial marketplace. Blue Force Tracking Systems identify friendly forces in war zones.

“It’s a program of record and they don’t want more bandwidth,” Dankberg said of the Blue Force Tracking program. “So we’ll do what they say.”

“They [the U.S. Navy] just launched into operation the MUOS satellite,” Dankberg said, referring to the first of the Mobile User Objective System UHF-band mobile communications spacecraft, which is now operational in orbit.

“The [MUOS] terminal is several times heavier than the VR 12 terminal [ViaSat’s 8-megabit-per second aeronautical terminal]. It is more expensive. The ground network won’t be available for five years. Instead of doing 8 megabits per second, it’ll do 100 kilobits.

“On the other hand, they are going to buy a couple of billion dollars’ worth of MUOS terminals. We’ll make these 100-kilobit terminals for $300,000 for them. Some of them will go on the same planes as our broadband terminals. We don’t know what else to do, so that’s what we’ll do. The government does not have a clear requirement for a global mobile broadband capability.”

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