TAMPA, Fla. Lynk Global said it is still waiting for Spaceflight to rebook a flight for the second commercial satellite on its mobile-compatible broadband network, four months after the space tug kicked off launch services for a SpaceX mission.
Lynk-07 was set to launch aboard Spaceflight’s Sherpa Orbital Transfer Vehicle (OTV) in April on a Falcon 9 rideshare mission, Lynk Global CEO Charles Miller told SpaceNews.
However, SpaceX decided in March to remove Sherpa from its Transporter 4 mission after concerns about environmental factors affecting the satellites installed on the OTV.
SpaceX also said it would no longer work with Spaceflight on future rideshare missions after the launch of the missions still on the manifest.
Spaceflight, which used another variant of Sherpa to deploy satellites on SpaceX’s Transporter 5 mission in May, said March 21 that it had found alternative rides for all of its customers who could not fly Transporter 4.
Jodi Sorensen, Spaceflight’s vice president of marketing, said on July 8 that Spaceflight is currently working with SpaceX on “several missions” after Transporter 5.
“Not all of those have been announced yet, but several will feature our Sherpa OTVs, including the GeoPathfinder mission scheduled for next year,” Sorensen said.
Sorensen said contracts and nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) with Lynk Global prevent Spaceflight from discussing attempts to rebook the company on another flight, and said she “is not free to share details about the launch plan with our customers,” and that “they will have to take care of that themselves.”
Miller said via email: “It’s been 4 months since Spaceflight launched from flight in March and they haven’t found a reflight for us.”
He said one option to secure an alternate launch for Lynk-07 this year “is to buy directly from SpaceX, but that’s a lot more expensive.”
Virginia-based Lynk Global has directly booked a SpaceX launch in November for its third and fourth commercial satellites.
The November mission will use “a new rollout system designed to carry up to half a dozen Lynk satellites,” he said.
“Lynk will be the integrator on that launch.”
Lynk Global announced on July 5 that it had secured funding from Virginia Venture Partners, the investment arm of Virginia’s nonprofit Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation (VIPC), to accelerate the launch of its first commercial services in late 2022.
Miller said Lynk Global has secured $1 million in funding — the first time VIPC has decided to invest up to its maximum funding limit in a single transaction — which will be used to build and integrate its third and fourth commercial satellites.
VIPC had also invested $50,000 in the startup phase of the startup several years ago.
Separately, Lynk Global announced on July 6 that it had won this year’s car2satellite innovation challenge, run by automaker Mercedes Benz and the German space agency.
In addition to access to a worldwide network of contacts, contest winners receive technological and economic support.
Commercial services this year
Lynk Tower 1, Lynk Global’s first commercial satellite, was launched in April in SpaceX’s Transporter 4 mission without Spaceflight’s Sherpa tug.
It is currently the startup’s only operational satellite. The five test satellites Lynk Global previously deployed to develop its constellation have been shut down or taken out of orbit.
According to Miller, Lynk Global will be able to launch its first text messages, emergency alerts and internet of things services before the end of this year with four operational satellites in low Earth orbit.
The startup has signed contracts with 12 mobile network operators (MNOs) who want “one or more of these services” for their subscribers.
Of these, Lynk Global has only announced deals in the Bahamas, Papua New Guinea, the Central African Republic, the Solomon Islands and Mongolia.
Miller said the startup is in “advanced contract negotiations” with more than two dozen other MNOs.
He said customers using the first services will be able to send and receive text messages about four to eight times a day using existing smartphones, depending on their latitude.
Lynk Global’s first satellites will pass customers at higher latitudes more often than those closer to the equator.
For IoT services designed for small, low-power devices, he said, “There are many use cases where remote monitoring of equipment several times a day is more than good enough.”
Lynk Global is building its pizza box spacecraft in-house and plans to deploy more than 50 of them by the end of 2023 to achieve “an order of magnitude [satellite] viaducts.”
Depending on their latitude, Miller said the average user will be in range of a satellite flyover every 15-30 minutes by the end of 2023.
Lynk Global isn’t the only startup looking to deploy a broadband constellation with phased array antennas that connect directly to standard smartphones.
Texas-based AST SpaceMobile expects SpaceX to launch the BlueWalker 3 test satellite for its cellphone-compatible constellation during the week of August 15.
SpaceX will also launch AST SpaceMobile’s first commercial BlueBird satellite in 2023.
AST SpaceMobile aims to have 110 BlueBird satellites deployed by the end of 2024 to provide substantial cellular coverage.
This article was edited on July 8 with additional comments from Spaceflight.