BlueWalker-3 has a 64-square-meter antenna, the largest deployed commercially in low Earth orbit. Credit: AST SpaceMobile

TAMPA, Fla. — AST SpaceMobile’s shares plunged to a new low after the direct-to-smartphone developer said initial commercial satellites will not be ready for launch until at least July following its latest production delay.

The company disclosed the delay during earnings results April 1 after the Nasdaq stock exchange closed, sending shares down more than 23% the following day to $2.01.

SpaceX was slated to fly AST SpaceMobile’s first five 1,500-kilogram Block 1 BlueBird satellites on a Falcon 9 in 2023 before the venture first encountered supply chain issues.

This launch slipped to the first quarter of 2024, then the second quarter, and now AST SpaceMobile CEO Abel Avellan said the satellites are not due to arrive at their launch site until July or August.

“Unfortunately, production was negatively impacted primarily by two suppliers, leading to delays in integration and testing,” Avellan told investors April 1.

In particular, he said the Texas-based company has faced manufacturing challenges for satellite building blocks it calls Microns, panels with solar cells on one side for power and antennas for connectivity on the other.

“In order to accelerate production of our next satellites and reduce dependency on outside suppliers we acquired a license to manufacture one of the components and replace the other supplier with our own [intellectual property] and design,” Avellan added.

He said AST SpaceMobile has also secured a contract to launch its first Block 2 BlueBird satellite between December and March.

Initial Block 2 BlueBirds would be equipped with a 223-square-meter antenna to provide 10-times more capacity than Block 1 BlueBirds, which are around 64-square-meters, similar to the BlueWalker-3 demo satellite deployed two years ago.

AST SpaceMobile said its first six commercial satellites have been fully funded, following an investment announced earlier this year from companies including AT&T, which plans to use the low Earth orbit network to plug coverage gaps in the United States.

The company started trading on Nasdaq in 2021 by merging with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), a shell company that lists on a stock exchange with capital from public investors searching for an investment opportunity.

The deal raised around $417 million for AST SpaceMobile, but the company has been burning through cash amid production delays and cost overruns that have helped send shares downward after closing at $11.81 on their first day of trading.

AST SpaceMobile also disclosed it has received three non-binding letters of interest for export credit agency funding as it aims to deploy up to 45 satellites by the end of 2026.

Jason Rainbow writes about satellite telecom, space finance and commercial markets for SpaceNews. He has spent more than a decade covering the global space industry as a business journalist. Previously, he was Group Editor-in-Chief for Finance Information…


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