Status update for ViaSat-2 - our newest satellite


We’ve answered a bunch of questions about our new satellite in different places, but here’s a summary of what you might be curious about.

What is ViaSat-2?

VS-2 is an all-new satellite launched June 1, 2017 by Viasat. It was built by Viasat in partnership with Boeing Satellite Systems International and launched by Arianespace from their spaceport in French Guiana.

How powerful is it?

We measure a satellite’s power in its capacity to move data through it, known as “throughput.” Throughput is measured in gigabytes per second. ViaSat-2 will have a throughput capacity of about 260 Gbps. Here’s a look at the capacity of our previous satellites:

  • Anik F2: 2 Gbps
  • WildBlue-1: 7 Gbps
  • ViaSat-1: 140 Gbps

How far we’ve come, eh? When they begin launching in the next few years, our next generation of satellites, known as ViaSat-3, are expected to each have 1,000 Gbps — or 1 terabyte — of throughput!
Why should I care about capacity?

The more capacity we have, the higher speeds and better data plans we can offer. Think of your internet data like cars on a highway: The more lanes (capacity) you have, the more cars you can move and at higher speeds (unless you’re in LA, in which case it doesn’t seem to matter). Put more bluntly: The more satellite capacity we have up there, the less chance you’ll ever need to worry about a data cap again!

When will it be ready to deliver service?

We anticipate service from this satellite to begin in early 2018. The satellite is expected to be in its orbital slot in late November, and then we’ve got some work to do with testing and getting it all synced-up with our ground network (which is also all-new, BTW).

Where will VS-2 deliver service?

VS-2 will cover all of the Lower 48 states plus Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, a little bit of northern South America and the primary air and maritime routes across the Atlantic to Europe. If you’re in one of those areas where our VS-1 beams didn’t reach, you should be looking at a chance to get a big upgrade with the new service. Here’s a map.

Why is it taking so long?

Like many communications satellites — including those for satellite TV — ViaSat-2 will be positioned in an orbit about 22,300 miles above the equator. At this altitude — called a geostationary orbit — the satellite’s orbit matches the rotation of the earth, allowing it to service an enormous area without ever “setting,” as LEO (low-earth orbit) satellites do.

As powerful as it is at delivering high-speed internet, this spacecraft is not exactly the Millennium Falcon when it comes to speed. The rocket that launched it only got it a few hundred miles up, and the rest of the way is equal to about a 10th of the way to the moon. ViaSat-2 is a mostly electric satellite, meaning that instead of chemical propulsion (which makes for a faster spaceship), it uses xenon ions. It’s slower, but this fuel is more compact, so we were able to pack more capacity-creating electronics in there. Here’s a timeline of what happens after launch.

What kind of speed and data plans will ViaSat-2 offer?

Ah, that’s the million-dollar question everyone is asking! We don’t have specifics on plans yet, but we can say that we will likely offer download speeds of at least 25 Mbps, and probably even higher in some areas. Compared to most of our current plans, where your speed is slowed after you reach your data cap, plans on ViaSat-2 will be much more relaxed, with some areas having plans that will seem virtually unlimited for most users. We’ll have more details and pricing information as we get closer to service launch.

Will I need new equipment for ViaSat-2?

The short answer is “yes.” The longer answer is that you may not have to change satellites to get one of the new plans. That’s because we’ll spread our capacity over two very high-capacity satellites (and a couple of smaller ones), so the plan you may want could very well be on our ViaSat-1 satellite. If you do switch to VS-2, you’ll need a new modem and outdoor equipment, so it will require a service visit. Also, the dish will need to be repointed at the new satellite, which is in a different location than ViaSat-1.

How much will plans be?

Patience, grasshopper. But similar to what we offer now, only with better speeds and data options available. We’ll likely still have plans starting at about 50 bucks a month, with some higher-end options costing a bit more.

How do I find out what plans are available to me?

We’ll be communicating all of that information once we know it. You can also always check your account on MyExede. It shows which plans you can upgrade to in the My Account drop-down.

Will plans on VS-2 have a Free Zone?

We don’t have specifics on this, but it’s unlikely that the higher-end plans will need a Free Zone, since the data will be almost unlimited. Lower-end plans may have Liberty-like data caps and possibly a Free Zone.

Will ViaSat-2 help bridge the digital divide?

Yes! Yes it will! The digital divide — which refers to how folks in urban areas typically get way faster internet service than people outside the cities — is a big problem in the U.S. We read all the time about how such-and-such cable company wants a zillion dollars to extend service to rural areas, or how some other pie-in-the-sky miracle solution is going to come from somewhere else, some day. Fact is, Exede service is already delivering fast service to many of these areas, and when we add ViaSat-2 to the mix (and then ViaSat-3 a few years later), it’s going to really kick things into high gear for many of the people — especially in rural areas — who just haven’t had access to affordable, high-speed internet. Stay tuned!

I need some technical specs about VS-2!

If you’re into that sort of thing, here you go:

  • Weight of satellite: 6,400kg or 7 tons
  • Orbital position: 69.9° west longitude
  • Projected lifetime: > 14 years
  • Frequency: Ka-band
  • If you want to know about azimuth and right ascension and where the satellite is in real time and all that kind of thing, you can see that here. If the altitude numbers look a little odd, that’s due to the highly eccentric orbit the satellite is in during what’s called the “orbit raising” phase. It starts off looking more oval and gradually gets rounder and rounder until it’s in its perfect little ol’ slot up there.

If you’re still curious, you can learn more about ViaSat-2 and follow news about it on this Flipboard site.