Boeing Hands Spaceway 3 to Hughes


After four months of in-orbit testing, Boeing has handed over the Spaceway 3 satellite (pictured above in an artist’s rendition) to Hughes Network Systems. Hughes will utilize the Boeing-built satellite to provide HughesNet broadband satellite services throughout North America.

Launched via an Ariane 5 that lifted from the Ariane Launch Complex 3 in the tropics of Kourou, French Guiana on August 15th of this year, Spaceway 3 is Boeing 702 — a huge satellite weighing in at 6075 kg, with a 132-foot solar array span.

So what will it do? The press release from the launch gives us an overview:

"Boeing is helping Hughes in its vision to ‘Connect to the Future’ through satellite-based Internet services," said Howard Chambers, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems. "Flying more than 22,000 miles above North America, the Spaceway 3 satellite will allow Hughes Network Systems to provide existing and new customers with high-speed, two-way communications for Internet, data, voice, video and multimedia applications."

Boeing manufactured the high-power, 702 satellite operating in Ka-band to enable Hughes to provide customers a new range of broadband-via-satellite services throughout North America. The Boeing-built technology that will enable these services includes a digital processor, downlink phased array antenna, microwave switch matrix, and flight hardware and software that will provide point-to-point and point-to-multi-point connectivity to Hughes’ customers. 

The Hughes Spaceway site, meanwhile, provides additional technical details:

SPACEWAY will enable a full-mesh digital IP network that will interconnect with a wide variety of end-user equipment and systems. This North American broadband satellite system will enable a range of innovative applications, enterprise-wide.

The SPACEWAY satellite features innovative, onboard digital processors, packet switching, and spot beam technology. Spot beam technology will enable the satellite to provide services to small terminals, while onboard routers will enable mesh connectivity. Users of the system will be able to directly communicate with any other user of the system without requiring connection through a central hub.

What does this mean for the approximately 325,000 current HughesNet subscribers?  Spaceway-3 uses Ka band spotbeams (at 20/30 GHz) and cannot be used by current subscribers, who are using Ku-band (11/14 GHz). So the handover of Spaceway is all new business for Hughes, and, according to a discussion on DSLreports, subscribers will need an entirely new outdoor unit (ODU) to tap into Hughes’ next generation model.

But with throughput as high at 16 Mbps expected from Spaceway, many HughesNet subscribers may decide switching out their outdoor unit is worth it.