Viasat决定设计和制造自己的卫星，是为了响应消费者对可负担的带宽的无休止的需求. “And we didn’t see anyone else aiming to do it,” co-founder and CEO Mark Dankberg told the San Diego Tribune in 2009.
他当时表示:“欧宝体育官网入口认为带宽确实是一个基本的、持久的价值主张。. “That is what gave us confidence to get into it.”
自那以后，Viasat的太空业务开始进入内部，并变得越来越复杂. A key part of that evolution was Viasat’s 2002 acquisition of U.S. Monolithics (USM), a designer of high-frequency broadband circuitry in Gilbert, AZ and the root of Viasat’s Tempe, AZ campus.
At the time, USM was contracted to build transceivers for WildBlue, a Denver-based start-up satellite internet provider. Viasat, meanwhile, was under contract to build modems for WildBlue. Viasat bought USM to provide a more integrated process to WildBlue, and later acquired WildBlue itself.
At the time, USM was building and supplying small quantities of microchips, 射频(RF)模块和单片微波集成电路(mics)的空间计划.
“When Viasat bought us, we had no plans for building a satellite payload,” said Dean Cook, one of USM’s co-founders and now chief engineer at Viasat’s Tempe office. “欧宝体育官网入口的人有建造铱星部分和有效载荷的经验, but we only had some of the areas of expertise needed to build a payload. At that time, 欧宝体育官网入口专注于提高生产能力和降低WildBlue的用户收发器的成本.
“令人惊讶的是，欧宝体育官网入口能够从生产商业ODUs(户外设备)发展到建造大型有效载荷, geostationary satellites,” he said.
Repositioning the satellite
A turning point in Viasat’s vision began in 2011, 该公司签署了一份为铱星NEXT卫星星座提供射频模块的合同. The new satellites were intended to replace the original global constellation, which went into service in 1998.
Ken Buer, Viasat Arizona’s chief technical officer, 他表示，Viasat已经通过为国防作战生产零部件和芯片赢得了信誉. And when it acquired USM, Viasat还获得了许多前摩托罗拉员工(摩托罗拉是最初铱星系统的发明者和主承包商).
布尔说:“公司有一半的人参与了最初的铱星项目。. “So we had some built-in incumbency, along with some credibility, that allowed us to win that contract.”
铱NEXT是一个由81颗低地球轨道(LEO)卫星组成的全球星座，用于蜂窝电话和寻呼服务. Each satellite is crosslinked to as many as four others, 所需的模块比USM/Viasat之前做的任何事情都要复杂.
“欧宝体育官网入口必须从做少量的小模块发展到做更复杂的模块, full-production run for a whole LEO constellation,” said Nathan Welborne, Viasat业务发展专家，担任该项目的首席机械工程师. “当欧宝体育官网入口弄清楚如何构建这些高可靠性空间模块所需的所有能力时，我就在前线. It was tons of work.”
这项工作包括测试每个模块，以确保它能够应对火箭发射环境, which includes vibration, shock, and vacuum.
他说:“欧宝体育官网入口为这些环境做了设计，为国防项目做了更糟糕的设计, 但铱是一个足够大的项目，欧宝体育官网入口有必要建立欧宝体育官网入口的内部设计, test, and lab capability,” Buer said.
The project paid off for both Iridium and Viasat, which drew upon that knowledge to build its own satellites.
In 2015, Viasat获得了为小型政府立方体卫星(轻量级)制造有效载荷的额外经验, miniature satellites with tiny payloads.
“While we were still in the design phase on our own internal payloads, we had government projects on smaller payloads,” Buer said. “That helped blaze the trail for some of our infrastructure.”
Pushing through the doubts
The decision to build payloads in-house was driven by many factors, among them the desire to protect Viasat’s intellectual property (IP).
“There was a lot of pressure pushing us that way, but it was really Mark Dankberg’s vision,” Buer said. “He felt we needed more control of the process.”
This was no time for caution.
Viasat的领导者看到了公司建立自己的有效载荷的其他优势，这是公司不断发展的一部分 vertical integration.
“Even more than the IP side, 通过消除供应商和供应商之间的一些壁垒，欧宝体育官网入口可以提高生产率,” Buer said. “And when we’re designing the ground system, 这也很有帮助，因为欧宝体育官网入口可以很好地了解航天器对SANS(地面卫星接入节点)的影响.”
To build a payload, Viasat also needed a space in which to do it. In 2014, the company broke ground on a 110,000-square-foot facility in Tempe that included a high bay and cleanroom labs. It also needed more staff.
“When I started at USM, I was employee 9; now we have 550 to 600 employees spread across three different sites in Arizona,” Buer said. “A huge chunk of that is support for ViaSat-3.”
And while Iridium NEXT helped prepare Viasat for building its own payload, there was still much to learn.
“In addition to our day jobs, 欧宝体育官网入口还必须帮助指定和规划建造ViaSat-3有效载荷所需的设施,” said Thom Messenger, mechanical engineering manager at Viasat’s Arizona offices. “Most of us came from companies where all this was already in place. The high bay, vibration and shock lab, 热真空实验室只是众多需要规划和建造的领域中的一小部分.
“甚至连设备中的飞行硬件的移动都面临挑战:是否有足够的空间按照要求在高舱中移动两个有效载荷?” he said. 走廊和门是否足够大，能把实验室的部件搬到高隔间? 波音公司的载重运输机能在Viasat Tempe大楼停车场导航吗?”
In fact, the answer to that final question was no. Viasat had to realign one of the sidewalk curves to accommodate the transporter.
When Viasat delivered the first ViaSat-3 payload to Boeing in early June, Buer and Welborne said they both felt relieved. The team had pushed on under tremendous pressure and through multiple challenges, including delays tied to the pandemic.
“It’s a huge accomplishment,” Buer said. “At the same time, we’re still supporting Boeing going through their payload integration, and we still have two more (ViaSat-3) payloads to go. He added: “One of the things engineers do badly is celebrate our accomplishments. We are always looking at the next challenge.”
But the team took at least one pause to appreciate what they had achieved. Right before the payload shipped, ViaSat-3团队成员参加了一次全员会议，会上展示了完成有效载荷的照片. It drove home all that they had accomplished.
“Looking back, 令人惊讶的是，欧宝体育官网入口取得了如此长足的进步——从2016年一个带有3d打印单元的单一散热器面板的胶合板模型，到2021年完成的飞行有效载荷,” Messenger said. “实现马克·丹克伯格(Mark Dankberg)设计和建造最高容量卫星的愿景是一项艰巨的任务. 但在Viasat领导层的持续支持下——以及整个团队将整体任务分解为更小的子任务并执行它们的能力和才华——欧宝体育官网入口做到了.”
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