BlueWalker 3 was launched into orbit by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in September 2011.
BlueWalker 3, an experimental communication satellite, has deployed the largest antenna in Earth orbit. Its total area is 64 sq. meters. The creation of an orbital constellation with communications satellites, similar to BlueWalker 3, is expected to begin next year.
BlueWalker 3 was developed by American company AST & Science. It serves as a prototype for larger BlueBird satellites in the SpaceMobile orbital constellation. It will have 168 satellites. It’s designed to enable broadband direct communication with cellular phone on the 3GPP consituency frequency standards. This will make it possible for communication to be established in remote areas of the Earth. The deployment of the constellation to low Earth orbit is expected to begin by the end next year.
A distinctive feature of the BlueWalker 3, with a total weight of 1.5 tons, was a deployable phased antenna array, with a diameter of 10 meters and an area of 64 square meters, consisting of many individual modules.
SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the satellite into a 500-kilometer orbit near Earth in September. It successfully deployed its antenna on November 15, and sent images. This made it the largest commercial satellite for communications.
This event raised alarm among professional astronomers who were previously concerned about the antenna’s large size. It is a bright spot for ground-based telescopes, and can create tracks in photographs. Many astronomers saw BlueWalker 3, a 1st magnitude star, 50 times brighter after the antenna opened. This has not affected astronomical observations so far. However, as more BlueBird satellites are placed in orbit, the problem will only get worse.