AST SpaceMobile Must Raise Funds To Build Out BlueBird Constellation

BlueWalker 3
Credit: AST Space Mobile

AST SpaceMobile, a newly public startup aiming to provide space-based cellular broadband connectivity, remains on track to launch its experimental BlueWalker 3 satellite this summer, managers said late March 31.

The update came as part of formally reporting 2021 financial results, a first since AST SpaceMobile shares started trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange a year ago following a reverse merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). Revenue more than doubled year over year to $12.4 million, but net loss grew by a quarter to $30.6 million, or $0.37 a share.

“By the way of a quick update, we are on a schedule for the planned launch of BlueWalker 3 this summer,” Chairman and CEO Abel Avellan said on a quarterly conference call. The update was significant after the company in January acknowledged a schedule slip of at least one financial quarter for the technology-proving satellite. 

“What is left for us is to store and pack the satellite into this final configuration after the final RS testing is completed at our Midland facility,” Avellan said, referring to the company’s new manufacturing headquarters in Texas. “The process of storing our satellite is an engineering challenge that has taken the company over two years to solve and test.”

From 2020 through March 31, 2022, AST Space Mobile has spent more than $175 million on constructing BlueWalker 3, including $80.7 million in the latest quarter and more than $67.6 million in 2021. “There may be a few million more to finish up, but nothing material,” Chief Financial Officer Tom Severson said.

The company had cash and equivalent on hand of $324.5 million at the end of 2021, including go-public proceeds, versus $42.8 million at the end of 2020. But it will take $260-300 million to build out the initial 20 BlueBird constellation, with costs incurred this year and next. Managers acknowledged they will have to raise more funds.

“Our goal is to opportunistically raise additional capital with the most advantageous terms possible, and we are continuously assessing various financing options,” Severson said. “Our current expectation is that we will seek to raise additional capital before we launch the space mobile service commercially.”

In the call, managers reaffirmed their cost estimates to build and launch the first 20 satellites with an ultimate average cost of $13-15 million per satellite, and for the full constellation, they are still targeting 168 satellites at an average of roughly $11 million.

Construction of operational BlueBird constellation satellites should begin later this year, ramping up to six monthly by mid-2023. Launch should occur that year.

AST SpaceMobile has contracted with SpaceX for a package of three launches from Cape Canaveral, which managers said should entail BlueWalker 3 and the first BlueBird. 

Michael Bruno

Based in Washington, Michael Bruno is Aviation Week Network’s Executive Editor for Business. He oversees coverage of aviation, aerospace and defense businesses, supply chains and related issues.