A view from onboard the satellite, captured after deploying the 693-square foot array.
Satellite-to-smartphone connectivity venture AST SpaceMobile announced on Monday that the wide antenna of its recently launched test satellite deployed successfully — a critical milestone in the company’s development of a global network to provide 5G broadband service.
The BlueWalker 3 satellite, launched on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket in September, deployed its 693-square-foot antenna – which the company calls the largest-ever array deployed in low Earth orbit.
AST SpaceMobile stock jumped about 17% in premarket trading Monday from its previous close of $8.83 a share. The company’s shares are up 11% so far this year.
“Every person should have the right to access cellular broadband, regardless of where they live or work. Our goal is to close the connectivity gaps that negatively impact billions of lives around the world,” AST SpaceMobile chairman and CEO Abel Avellan said in a statement.
A simulated view at the BlueWalker 3 satellite antenna deploying.
The company is among multiple contenders trying to create such a worldwide service, an untapped market that’s long been a dream for satellite communications.
AST’s network would consist of a constellation of 168 satellites, with the company saying it will reach global coverage once about 110 are in orbit. BlueWalker 3 represents AST’s second test satellite to date, and it plans to begin deploying its operational BlueBird satellites late next year.
The satellite company went public via a SPAC last year and has raised nearly $600 million to date. AST has racked up a number of mobile telecom partnerships for its service, including AT&T, Vodafone, Rakuten and more.
AT&T network president Chris Sambar said in a statement Monday that the company is “excited” AST has reached “this significant milestone.”
“Working with AST SpaceMobile, we believe there is a future opportunity to even further extend our network reach including to otherwise remote and off-grid locations,” Sambar said.