Viasat Select’s ULA’s Atlas V for Commercial Satellite Launch

Atlas V launches Orbital ATK-designed satellites for the U.S. Air Force. (Credit: ULA)

PARIS, Sept. 10, 2018 (ULA PR) – Global communications company, Viasat Inc., (Nasdaq: VSAT) announced today it selected United Launch Alliance’s (ULA’s) proven Atlas V vehicle to launch one of its ViaSat-3 satellite missions. This is the first commercial contract ULA has directly signed since assuming responsibility for the marketing and sales of the Atlas V launch vehicle from Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services earlier this year.

The Viasat mission will carry one of the ViaSat-3 series spacecraft and is scheduled to launch in the 2020 – 2022 timeframe from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This mission will launch aboard an Atlas V 551 configuration vehicle, the largest in the Atlas V fleet. The 551 configuration provides the performance to deliver a ViaSat-3 satellite into a high-energy geostationary transfer orbit where it can begin on-orbit operations faster than with other available launch vehicles.

The selection of Atlas V for one of the ViaSat-3 missions is the next step in implementing Viasat’s integrated launch strategy which is designed to ensure the on-time launch of all of the ViaSat-3 spacecraft through launch vehicle diversity and an integrated approach to launch planning. Viasat will announce specific mission assignments for each of the contracted launch vehicles at a later date.

“ULA continues to demonstrate schedule certainty and flexibility, as well as be a trustworthy and reliable business partner. This coupled with unmatched Atlas V launch vehicle reliability and tailored mission design capabilities made ULA a strong partner for a ViaSat-3 launch mission,” said Dave Ryan, president, Space Systems at Viasat. “ULA is known for providing an innovative launch solution that is focused on mission success, which will allow us to meet our business objectives to bring high-speed, high-quality broadband connectivity to meet end-user demand.”

“ULA’s Atlas V launch vehicle is the most reliable launch vehicle in the world and we could not be more pleased that Viasat, a leading satellite broadband innovator, has recognized the value the Atlas V can offer, and decided to select this rocket to launch its critical commercial communications satellite,” said Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO.

The ViaSat-3 class of Ka-band satellites is expected to provide unprecedented capabilities in terms of service speed and flexibility for a satellite platform. The first two satellites will focus on the Americas and on Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), respectively, with the third satellite planned for the APAC region, completing Viasat’s global service coverage. Each ViaSat-3 class satellite is expected to deliver more than 1-Terabit per second of network capacity, and to leverage high levels of flexibility to dynamically direct capacity to where customers are located.

Atlas V has launched 78 missions with 100 percent success including 17 successful commercial missions. The workhorse rocket also delivered critical science missions for NASA such as Mars Science Lab, Pluto New Horizons and Mars InSight, and critical missions for the Department of Defense including Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) and Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS).

About Viasat

Viasat is a global communications company that believes everyone and everything in the world can be connected. For more than 30 years, Viasat has helped shape how consumers, businesses, governments and militaries around the world communicate. Today, the Company is developing the ultimate global communications network to power high-quality, secure, affordable, fast connections to impact people’s lives anywhere they are—on the ground, in the air or at sea. To learn more about Viasat, visit: www.viasat.com, go to Viasat’s Corporate Blog, or follow the Company on social media at: FacebookInstagramLinkedInTwitter or YouTube.

About ULA

With more than a century of combined heritage, ULA is the world’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered 129 satellites to orbit that provide Earth observation capabilities, enable global communications, unlock the mysteries of our solar system, and support life-saving technology.

For more information on ULA, visit the ULA website at www.ulalaunch.com, or call the ULA Launch Hotline at 1-877-ULA-4321 (852-4321). Join the conversation at www.facebook.com/ulalaunch, twitter.com/ulalaunch and instagram.com/ulalaunch.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    Alternate headline: Vulcan Still Has No Commercial Customers

  • Paul_Scutts

    I wonder what they are being charged by ULA to launch their satellite using the very reliable reliable Atlas 551?

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    If SX really does grow the market, ie creates new launch customers who would normally not get into the satellite launch market, or by nature of lowering launch costs allow existing satellite operators to contract out satellites that would not normally have been built and launched, ULA and the others will see some of that extra work. How far will ULA and the others go to secure a piece of the pie? Consider Airbus gave 2 A300’s to Eastern airlines to ‘test’ in the mid 70’s in the face of the Boeing/DC airliner duopoly. Space X needs some competition, everyone does. I’d like to see ULA at least tread on the path that SX has already blazed, but it seems nobody, ULA, Europe, Russia, maybe China, wants to follow in SX’s path. There’s some great politics and the makings for some great articles as to why that’s the case.

  • envy

    The 551 can deliver 8,700 kg to the standard GTO, and cost ~$160 million when ULA was listing prices online last year. Must be a large satellite and/or going direct to GEO.

    Interesting that ULA is marketing the RD-180, with limited stock and an impending import ban for national security launches.

  • Arthur Hamilton

    Engines for commercial launches aren’t banned.

  • Arthur Hamilton

    They stressed schedule reliability.

  • Zed_WEASEL

    According to the GAO the Atlas V 551 is closer to $180M in launch cost.

    ViaSat will be the inaugural commercial customer for the Atlas V 551. There had been 8 previous 551 launches; 6 military GEO comsat plus the New Horizon & Juno space probes.

  • duheagle

    No great mysteries to be addressed. In all cases it’s some combination of political inertia, historical baggage, and obdurate disbelief quantum tunneling into blind panic. ULA, Europe, Russia and China never thought SpaceX could do what it has done or even stay alive while it tried. Each understands that it is neither as motivated nor as quick as SpaceX and, even so, that SpaceX has taken at least 10 years to get the Falcon 9 to where it is now. It will take any other player longer than that just to match what SpaceX can currently do. By the time any can do so, SpaceX will be routinely operating the “Block 5” BFR and very probably early versions of an add-on or successor product. As the Raisuli said to the Sherif of Wazan at the end of The Wind and the Lion, “It’s been a bad year. The next one is likely to be worse.”

  • Michael Halpern

    for commercial and IIRC NASA launches there is no reason they wouldn’t be able to use, or even purchase more RD-180s, in practice of course it doesn’t make sense to keep the Atlas V line open after 2022 beyond a stock to finish out contracted launches, as their prime customer would no longer be allowed to purchase rides on it.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    All true, but it does not matter. Those players won’t go away and will pay the price needed to remain ‘relevant’. The Russians and Chinese esp so as they have military infrastructure to maintain. Don’t forget the lesson of Airbus, those kids of companies are immortal and patient. It took 20 years of selling airliners at a loss before they could take Boeing on toe to toe and win. Likewise, ULA and Ariane will always be there knowing they’re not going away.

  • Michael Halpern

    China’s launch industry doesn’t interact with the western market much,and Russia lacks the money, or probably more accurately they lack the money that actually makes it to their programs

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    We can thank excessive ITAR regulations and Space X for preventing Western companies from becoming dependent on the Chinese.

  • Michael Halpern

    Dont think China’s lack of respect for foreign IP rights has little to do with it, You can work around ITAR and ITAR only affects AMERICAN companies, if you’re an advanced tech company of any sort, you need more than simple monetary incentive to swallow that pill

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I think the record shows that the worlds business men and esp the American business sector is more than willing to cede secrets and leadership, even ownership to the Chinese in the long term in exchange for more money today. With space I attribute the loss of Chinese market share to interference of the business cycle by the US government on the American side. The European Union is openly protectionist and interventionist without shame, and the European manufacturing sector has not been ravaged to the extent the American sector has been.

  • Michael Halpern

    its one thing to build a factory there, another to have your stuff reverse engineered without any say in the matter

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Why do you think the Chinese government provides all that start up capital, cheap/free/subsidized land and factories, pass laws outlawing organizing of labor, and can guarantee a minimum return on investment. What do you think they get out of it? They expect eventual ownership of the enterprise. They are the exit plan. The Western business sector builds and develops the market and gives technical assistance with the understanding that the Chinese get the enterprise in exchange for pieces of paper that says the Westerner who handed the enterprise over to China is rich. International capitalism means the West operates as an internationalist while working with Chinese nationalists. The business sector understands this perfectly well, but they’re not in it to be industrialists, they’re in it to make money. There’s a difference. The Chinese want to be industrialists and they know business men will part with the enterprise for a price the Chinese communist government can pay since it controls the printing presses and all the things that manufacturing faith in the product of those printing presses requires.

  • Paul_Scutts

    I agree with you, Andrew, with regard to Europe (and Russia). Just about the only bath the Europeans appear to be happy to take is the one involving spending on Ariane. 🙂 But, ULA is a totally different kettle of fish. The only saving grace for ULA, at present, is the US requirement of having assured access to space re. DOD hardware. If/When BO comes good with orbital New Glenn, ULA will become an irrelevancy. The USG has already sent signals that price to launch hardware is becoming an increasingly relevant factor. Boeing and LM have point blank refused to invest their own coin in significant ULA launch hardware development and Bruno has been, IMO, forced to align himself with Bezos for ULA’s possible future survival. Regards, Paul.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I hope you’re right. But look at Lockheed over the 20th’ cen and you see that they never go away in spite of some major failures and some major scandals. I think the government values a large corporation who’s agenda is what ever the government says it is. Blue and Space X have an agenda that can fast grow beyond the confines of the US government. When it starts to happen, it’s going to scare them.

    What can’t be ignored is a place to land for civil servants, political appointees and former military after they retire or a change in administration pushes them out. For the former military and civil servants they enjoy the option of retirement on full gov pensions as well as a highly paid engineering or management gigs at a contractor. And the political appointees need a place to land after a very short stint with no pension vesting. Lockheed, Boeing and ULA offer that. Space X has not gotten into that practice yet. I have a feeling ULA will be kept around for any number of reasons, but as a landing pad for civil servants can’t be ignored.

  • Paul_Scutts

    Thanks for your reply, Andrew. My initial reaction to your comment was “yes, you’re right, I hadn’t thought of that (angle)”. But, then I considered that OldSpace, Boeing, LM, etc., can still offer those things through their satellite & skunk works operations etc., without involving actual launchers. On balance, I still hold to the view that once the USG shifts to mainly using reliable but still much cheaper US launch suppliers, like SpaceX and BO, The Big B and LM will drop ULA like it’s a hot potato. I’m not saying that’s good, but, I feel that they will just keep going for the Cost Plus type stuff and with ULA they will just say “well it was fun whilst it lasted”. Time will tell. Regards, Paul.

  • Michael Halpern

    Remember that $180m includes extra services, also remember SpaceX even in its early years when they were flying F9 V1.0 and v1.1 forced ULA to somewhat drop their prices.

  • envy

    Who did?

  • envy

    In 2016 when they rolled out RocketBuilder the 551 with long fairing was $179 million commercial list price. They no longer list prices, but I think that dropped a bit over the last year and a half.

    http://spaceflight101.com/ula-rolls-out-rocketbuilder-website/

  • envy

    True. But the DoD also won’t be shouldering the vast majority of the fixed costs to keep Atlas flying once the ban actually is effective. Maybe they figure they will have a few extra Atlas V to sell at surplus prices after Vulcan is active.

  • Michael Halpern

    Viasat,

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    The beauty of the era we live in is we get to speculate, and we don’t have to wait long to find out which way it goes. For the record, I hope you’re right. However, I’m a tad jaded.

  • envy

    Well, they mentioned it, I wouldn’t call that “stressing” it. They also gave a 2-year window 1.5 years out.

    I’m thinking there are more important reasons than schedule certainty in this choice. I wonder if they are going for a direct insertion, or a partial perigee raise to get an electric sat on orbit early.

  • Michael Halpern

    It could be a combination of schedule and trying to spread out launches, they claim the reliability record of ULA was a factor, if it was just for direct insertion, at a base price of $95m a partially reusable FH is more than capable

  • Michael Halpern

    Space industry also favors quality, even with the more recent push for quantity, maintaining quality is important, China doesn’t have a great reputation for that

  • envy

    Atlas has done a lot more direct insertions than FH, so they would definitely have a reliability argument there.

  • envy

    This is interesting: Neither SpaceX nor ArianeSpace were invited to bid on this launch. Looks like ViaSat is mostly trying to spread launches around.

    https://twitter.com/pbdes/status/1039537710434840576

  • Zed_WEASEL

    Believed the GAO report from last year is for launches with the NASA LSP program that does not included extras.

  • duheagle

    Yes, we can. And SpaceX’s share of that thanks easily dominates ITAR considerations.

  • duheagle

    I don’t think the future looks too bright for senior officers looking to drop into one of those nice, cushy Executive Vice President in Charge of Playing Golf with Congresscritters jobs. As the number of primes has shrunk from dozens during WW2 to just three now, the amount of “customary graft” has risen in inverse proportion. What can ruin this cozy state of affairs? More new players in the defense industry. SpaceX is in the process of blowing the legacy players out of the space launch business. In another decade it’s only real competition is likely to be from other, even newer, New Space players. It is perfectly possible for something analogous to happen in the rest of the defense contracting establishment.

  • Michael Halpern

    Yeah cause ITAR can and regularly has been navigated around, it’s just more paperwork