OneWeb Minisatellite Constellation for Global Internet Service
On June 15, 2015, Airbus Defence and Space announced that it has been selected by OneWeb Ltd. (UK) as its industrial partner for the design and manufacturing of its fleet of microsatellites. The program is backed by the Virgin Group,Bharti Enterprises, Hughes Network Systems, Intelsat, Qualcomm, Airbus Group, and others. This initial production of 900 satellites, each with a mass of ~150 kg, is planned for launch into LEO (Low Earth Orbit) beginning in 2018 to deliver affordable Internet access globally. 1) 2) 3)
Airbus, which up to now has built large one-off satellites, will have to upgrade its satellite manufacturing approach to complete up to four satellites a day. Design and production of the first 10 satellites will be carried out at Airbus Defence and Space’s facilities in Toulouse (France). Full series production will take place at a dedicated plant located in the USA.
Figure 1: OneWeb intends to cover the Earth with a nominal constellation of 648 LEO minisatellites built by Airbus Defence and Space (image credit: Airbus DS)
Of the constellation, 648 of them will be placed in18 orbital planes with an altitude of about 1200 km. The remaining satellites will be used as spares on the ground or in orbit. Launches are expected to begin in 2018, probably using Virgin Galactic, and the system should be operational by 2020.
The funding allows OneWeb to further develop key technologies to enable affordable broadband for rural and underdeveloped locations. The OneWeb User Terminals are optionally solar powered, and with their embedded LTE (Long Term Evolution) standard, 3G, 2G and WiFi access capabilities will extend the mobile operator’s reach. The network will also provide unprecedented speeds and low latency access to ships, planes, trains and oil platforms while providing seamless interoperability with Intelsat’s fleet of Ku-band satellites.
Following the announcement on June 15 of its joint venture with Airbus Group (pending regulatory approvals) to design and manufacture its first 900 microsatellites, OneWeb announced on June 25 the largest commercial rocket acquisition ever of more than 65 rockets including 21 Soyuz launch orders from Arianespace. Arianespace will utilize the Soyuz launch pads from Guiana Space Center, Baikonur and additional launch pads from Russia to ensure the timely deployment. 4)
Virgin Galactic has signed a contract with OneWeb Ltd. to serve as one of its inaugural satellite launch providers. Under the terms of the Launch Services Agreement, Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne rocket will perform 39 satellite launches for OneWeb—one of the largest commercial procurements of launches in history. 5)
In July 2015, ESA announced support of the planned megaconstellations like OneWeb and LeoSat to ensure that the European and Canadian space industry remains competitive in the face of what could be a major transformation of the Satcom industry. ESA has established the ARTES 3-4 Megaconstellations Opportunity. Recognizing the urgency of the matter and the tight development schedules that will be required as well as the very high stakes involved, a new dedicated ARTES 3-4 Call for Proposals will be announced in the coming weeks which will run until June 2016. 6)
In April 2016, OneWeb has filed an application with the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) seeking access to the U.S. market for their planned LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellite system. The company’s constellation is anticipated to make broadband connectivity available in unserved or underserved regions today, and when fully deployed, to support services including cellular backhaul, mobility services, community and residential Internet access, and emergency communications in the U.S. and globally. 7)
OneWeb’s application demonstrates that the system will comply with the Commission's rules and the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) requirements for highly spectrum-efficient sharing of the Ku-band and Ka-band with geostationary satellites. The progressive pitch technology is designed to modify the orientation and power level of the OneWeb satellites as they pass over the equator, thereby enabling sharing with geostationary satellite operators.
Some background: WorldVu Satellites Limited, operating as OneWeb, Ltd, announced in June 2015 plans to build, launch and operate a LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellite constellation to help bring high-speed Internet and telephony to billions of people around the world. Qualcomm Inc. and The Virgin Group have been announced as initial investors, with Qualcomm Executive Chairman Paul Jacobs and Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson to join OneWeb founder Greg Wyler on the company's board of directors. 8) 9)
According to the ITU (International Telecommunications Union), as of the end of 2014, more than half the world’s population lacks Internet access. OneWeb, founded in 2012 under the name WorldVu, hopes to bring high-speed Internet and telephony to people living in underserved areas. The OneWeb satellite system introduces the first-ever telecom-class microsatellites.
OneWeb aims to provide user terminals that are self-installable, enabling coverage in these areas for any nearby phone, computer or tablet. OneWeb’s network would also be able to provide global emergency and first responder access for disaster situations, refugee camps or other areas in need.
OneWeb’s regulatory license allows it to operate, but only on condition that its broadcasts do not bother Ku-band signals from satellites in higher orbit, which by virtue of being there for the past several decades have established priority with international regulators. Standing on the shoulders of now-dead constellations of 15 years ago that successfully fought for low-orbiting constellations’ ability to coexist with the geostationary operators, OneWeb has committed to lower its power output around the equator to avoid interference. 10)
• March 20, 2018: Citing recent reforms that provide more time to orbit a new satellite constellation, satellite broadband-startup OneWeb asked U.S. telecom regulators to nearly triple the size of its authorized low-Earth-orbit constellation. 18)
- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in June approved OneWeb’s request to serve customers in the United States using a constellation of 720 satellites. Writing to the commission March 19, OneWeb asked that the company be permitted another 1,260 satellites, bringing the total number to 1,980 spacecraft.
- OneWeb said the FCC’s September decision to give companies more time to fully deploy their constellations enables OneWeb to plan a larger fleet. The FCC previously required companies to launch 100 percent of their satellites within six years of authorization. Under the new rules, companies have six years to deploy half their fleet.
- “OneWeb responsibly designed its LEO Constellation on the basis of a milestone regime that required launch and operation of the entire constellation within a six-year time frame .... If the current milestone regime had been in effect when OneWeb began planning its constellation and network architecture, OneWeb would have proposed a much more expansive LEO Constellation,” the company wrote the FCC.
- The FCC imposes deployment deadlines to prevent companies from “warehousing” spectrum, laying claim to frequencies and barring them from use by other companies. The new regulations require full constellation deployment in nine years. If an operator fails to reach full deployment in that time, its authorized number of satellites shrinks to the number already in orbit. OneWeb spoke against the FCC modifying constellation deployment deadlines during last year’s rulemaking procedure.
- OneWeb said the new satellites will use the same Ku- and Ka-band spectrum as the first 720 satellites. To accommodate the additional 1,260, OneWeb said it would double the number of orbital planes from 18 to 36, and increase the maximum number of satellites per plane from 40 to 55.
- The larger fleet will require more ground stations, OneWeb said, with as many as 50 antennas each to connect with the constellation. OneWeb’s gateway supplier Hughes Network Systems of Germantown, Maryland, said March 13 that it has shipped the first completed gateways.
Table 2: Doubling MEO (Medium Earth Orbit) Constellation (Ref. 18)
Figure 2: OneWeb space segment (image credit: OneWeb) 19)
Figure 3: OneWeb system architecture (image credit: OneWeb)
OneWeb Satellites is a joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus DS (Defence and Space):
• Airbus DS is responsible for the design and fabrication of OneWeb satellites
• The first 10 satellites will be built in Toulouse to validate the design and manufacturing processes
• A satellite factory is being built next to KSC (Kennedy Space Center) in Florida. 20)
- $85 million facility
- More than 13,900 m2 in size
- Set to open in 2018
- State-of-the art assembly and I&T (Integration and Test).
• Production contract
- Initial production of 900 satellites
- Peak production rate of 1-2 satellites per day.
• June 27, 2017: OneWeb has inaugurated their assembly line in Toulouse, France, to start end-to-end validation, testing, and integration of their first satellites, set for launch in a little more than nine months. 21)
- The 4,600 m2 Toulouse facility will serve to validate the production methods necessary to manufacture high-performance satellites at a scale never achieved before, de-risk any potential issues, and lay the framework for the larger multi-line OneWeb Satellites factory near the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The initial 10 pilot and Toulouse-built satellites, after having undergone a comprehensive set of tests, will become the first of OneWeb's fleet.
- Benefiting from the industrial and space expertise at Airbus, this assembly line will include state-of-the-art automation, test equipment and data acquisition capabilities to shorten assembly times and provide means to analyze factory performance and process improvements. These satellites will provide valuable in-orbit data to confirm the design of the spacecraft and proceed with fine tune adjustments if necessary. They will also enable nearly real-time detection and correction of any anomalies in the manufacturing process.
- As well as building the fleet of satellites, OneWeb Satellites will provide customized versions of these ultra-high performance satellites, platforms and core technologies to Airbus to support their third party sales to other commercial and government operators globally. The mini-satellites, coming from the huge production line, will enable new cost and performance paradigms for those looking to benefit from the advantages satellites can bring to Earth observation, sensor and telecommunications markets. The development of this facility has been supported by Bpifrance in the framework of the French PIA (Programme d'Investissements d'Avenir) program .
- Greg Wyler, Founder and Chairman of OneWeb, stated that the company has just about nine months until the first of the fleet launches into orbit. Then, if all goes well, OneWeb will initiate the world's largest launch campaign, sending new satellites up every 21 days and building not just a fleet but a digital bridge to enable affordable broadband access for the billions of unconnected around the world.
• On October 25, 2017: OneWeb's new satellite constellation is being built with a mission to close the global digital divide by 2027, bringing speeds of up to 2.5 Gbit/s direct to homes around the world, according to the company's Founder and Executive Chairman, Greg Wyler. 22)
- Wyler testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Technology at a hearing entitled "The Commercial Satellite Industry: What's Up and What's on the Horizon." Wyler discussed OneWeb's approach to providing broadband Internet through the firm's global satellite constellation, which will service Alaska starting in 2019, and in the following year, the constellation coverage will reach every square mile of America and territories, leaving no one behind. In June of this year, OneWeb received the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) first approval for market access to launch satellites and ultimately provide Internet services to Americans.
- Wyler's testimony detailed some of the early accomplishments of OneWeb, which included breaking ground on a new $85 million satellite production facility in Exploration Park, Florida, that will manufacture the firm's satellites and ultimately employ 250 people. The facility, opening in 2018, will be capable of producing 15 satellites per week and will have tremendous multiplier effects for the regional economy.
- OneWeb's rockets are in place and the first launch is scheduled for May of 2018. This global system will mean a brighter future for the half of America with substandard access to the Internet, primarily in rural areas, and will be a foundation for ubiquitous 5G service, enabling the Internet of Things (IoT), connected vehicles, telemedicine and online education.
OneWeb Satellite Design and Production
In order to produce 900 satellites in such a short time span with an unprecedented production rate of up to 15 satellites per week, a disruptive approach towards design and production for space applications had to be taken. Design-to cost, design to manufacture and test approaches have been implemented throughout the program, from the selection of components, production of equipment and satellite assembly, integration and testing. 23) 24)
Large-scale production and test approaches from other industries, including advanced levels of automation, have been applied and merged with established space methods adapted to the large scale of the OneWeb’s constellation. State-of-the-art robotics, inspection methods, test equipment and automated data acquisition systems will be implemented to support end-to-end integration and test activities.
The OneWeb Satellites will be of the 200 kg class and are designed for a 5 years life-time. At a size of roughly 1 m x 1 m x 1.3 m, they feature two external solar panels, electric propulsion and antennas for the user links in Ku-band and the gateway links in Ka-band. When a OneWeb satellite nears the end of its intended service life, it will de-orbit automatically, ensuring that the space around our planet remains free and clear for future generations, being therefore fully compliant with existing IADC (Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee) regulations.
Figure 4: Illustration of the OneWeb satellite (image credit: Airbus DS)
The OneWeb 3rd Party Platform Program
As an interesting side product of the OneWeb program, additional recurring OneWeb platforms, i.e. excluding the OneWeb mission specific Payload, will be produced and commercially sold to external customers for the so called “3rd party” missions. Based on the design experience and the capabilities of the high throughput production line, this offers a uniquely affordable and powerful solution to the 150 kg class of satellites.
The bare OneWeb platform can accommodate payloads of up to 60 kg. It can provide for an Earth panel surface for external units of up to 750 x 850 mm2 and supply an on-orbit average power of up to 200 W end of life. Qualified to high reliability standards within the OneWeb program, it is designed for a 5 years minimum lifetime in LEO orbits up to 1200 km altitude. It is compatible with dedicated and shared launches. Its electric propulsion system allows for high flexibility in orbit parameters, provides significant orbit raising capability and makes it compliant with post-mission disposal regulations.
Airbus DS will act as a one-stop shop for third party applications offering design and development services as well as launch, LEOP and in orbit operations if requested by the customer. A dedicated organization has been implemented within Airbus DS for this purpose. Production lines are available in Europe and the US to adapt to customer needs. First platforms are envisioned to be available for 3rd party applications from late-2018/early-2019.
OneWeb development status
• September 8, 2021: AT&T has agreed to use OneWeb’s low Earth orbit satellites to extend high-speed broadband services to areas outside its fiber footprint in the United States. 25)
Figure 5: A screenshot of OneWeb executive chair Sunil Bharti Mittal's Satellite 2021 keynote Sept. 8, where he announced the AT&T partnership (image credit: SpaceNews)
- Their partnership will focus on bolstering connectivity solutions for business and government customers, while also leveraging satellites to connect hard-to-reach cell towers across the country.
- AT&T provides high-speed connectivity to more than 2.5 million business in the U.S., according to the company, and more than nine million business customer sites are within 1,000 feet of its fiber network.
- However, the telco highlighted the many remote areas where it is too expensive or geographically challenging to expand high-speed fiber networks.
- OneWeb executive chair Sunil Bharti Mittal, who announced the agreement in his Satellite 2021 keynote Sept. 8, said the “U.S. market now has a huge distributor in the form of AT&T.”
- Asked about the services AT&T will provide through the OneWeb partnership, he first highlighted the potential to provide faster and more reliable cellular backhaul.
- Higher quality cellular backhaul “will allow [AT&T] to put up base stations where none exist today,” Mittal said.
- He also underlined the potential to improve AT&T’s enterprise services, as well as “the government delivery of various kinds of broadband services,” pointing to the billions in subsidies the Federal Communications Commission provides through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund as justifying OneWeb’s vision and business plan.
- “That means there are still very large parts of the U.S. which remain unconnected or poorly connected,” he noted.
Looking for more partners
- Mittal said OneWeb is holding “dozens of conversations in very advanced stages” with other telecom partners.
- The company had earlier announced a distributor partnership with British telco BT June 27.
- Mittal is founder and chair of Indian conglomerate Bharti, a OneWeb investor that also owns a sizable India-based telecoms company called Airtel.
- He told the conference that Airtel will partner with OneWeb to cover India, Southeast Asia and many countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
- With nearly half of its 648-strong constellation deployed so far, he said OneWeb expects to launch partial services in the Northern Hemisphere in the next 60-90 days.
- Mittal said Alaska “will probably go first with our services,” adding that OneWeb has also partnered with local telco Alaska Communications.
- OneWeb plans to launch full commercial services in 2022, and Mittal said it expects to have signed up a telecom operator in every country as it works on gaining worldwide market access.
- He highlighted stiff regulatory conditions in 30 countries in particular, of which OneWeb has been able to penetrate 12-13 of them.
- “They are very large markets, some of them,” he continued.
- “We need the permission to put up our .... ground stations, we need the permission to use the spectrum in their countries. We need the permission to go and access the market and provide the services.”
- Bharti is U.K-headquartered OneWeb’s largest investor in an international mix of shareholders that includes the British government, Japanese internet giant Softbank, French satellite operator Eutelsat, U.S.-based antenna specialist Hughes Network Systems and — more recently — South Korea’s Hanwha.
- Eutelsat said Sept. 8 that it closed a $550 million equity investment in OneWeb that it announced in April.
- If Bharti and Hanwha’s investments also close as expected following regulatory approvals, Eutelsat would own 17.6% of OneWeb.
- OneWeb also announced Sept 8 the appointment of Air Vice-Marshal Chris Moore as vice president of international government and trade engagement to its government and regulatory affairs team.
- Moore spent three decades at the U.K.’s Royal Air Force, and was the MOD’s director of operations for defence’s core IT services between 2017 and 2021.
- “His sectoral knowledge, spectrum engineering, and real-time application of satellite connectivity, alongside a deep cyber-security background, are of great benefit as we roll-out our global services,” stated OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson.
• August 25, 2021: South Korean antenna maker Intellian Technologies, a major supplier to British satellite broadband startup OneWeb, is planning to build its second manufacturing plant by May 2022 to meet increasing demand for user terminals for low Earth orbit broadband. 26)
- Intellian unveiled the plan Aug. 23, saying it will spend 30 billion won ($25.6 million) on building the new plant near the firm’s headquarters in the Jinwi Industrial Complex, Pyonegtaek, Gyeonggi Province. Its construction will begin in October, according to the company.
- “To build the new plant is part of efforts to ensure a stable supply to OneWeb,” Intellian said in a statement. “We see an increasing demand for user terminals for low Earth orbit broadband as competition among satellite-based communications providers intensifies and their business grows faster than expected.”
- The second plant, whose size is nearly 6,000 m2, will house production lines for user terminals for LEO broadband and gateway antennas, according to the company. The existing first plant is in the company’s headquarters.
- When the second plant becomes operational, an Intellian official told SpaceNews, the combined production capacity of the two plants will be “about 2.5 times higher than present.” The official declined to give details.
- Intellian is a major antenna supplier to OneWeb. The two have signed three contracts since 2019 — in August 2021, March 2021, and December 2019 — with a combined value of nearly 113.4 billion won ($97 million).
- In July, Intellian opened its European headquarters and logistics center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, underpinning its commitment to the European market. The company also contributed to developing a briefcase-sized electronically steered user terminal called OW1, which OneWeb unveiled Aug. 24 during the 36th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Figure 6: Intellian Technologies’ headquarters in Pyonegtaek, Gyeonggi Province, Korea (image credit: Intellian Technologies)
• August 24, 2021: OneWeb has unveiled a briefcase-sized electronically steered user terminal called OW1, which it says is the smallest yet that is capable of connecting to its LEO (Low Earth Orbit) constellation. 27)
Figure 7: OneWeb and Intellian plan to host an unboxing event for OW1 later this year (image credit: OneWeb)
- The startup plans to integrate the flat-panel antenna with a OneWeb satellite modem in a sealed outdoor unit for distribution later this year.
- OW1 was developed in partnership with South Korean antenna maker Intellian Technologies and Collins Aerospace, a subsidiary of Raytheon Technologies.
- OneWeb has said it has plans in place to develop a range of antennas, comprising flat panels and dual parabolic dishes, to support a LEO broadband constellation of nearly 650 satellites.
- OW1’s unveiling comes after Intellian announced a US$73 million contract with OneWeb March 8 to develop and supply compact user terminals.
- The flat-panel antenna is 50 x 43 x 10 cm, according to OneWeb, weighing around 10 kg.
- The outdoor antenna is designed to connect to an indoor unit through a single combined power and data cable, enabling connectivity to devices including laptops and routers.
- “The OW1 is our first flat-panel antenna, following years of investment in R&D, expanding our comprehensive OneWeb portfolio,” said Intellian CEO Eric Sung.
- Intellian has teamed up with Hughes Network Systems to demonstrate managed satcom services in strategic Arctic locations for the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).
- OneWeb has also partnered with Israel antenna maker SatixFy to build terminals for aircraft to enable in-flight connectivity services.
- On Aug. 12, OneWeb said it had received a $300 million strategic investment from Hanwha, the South Korean conglomerate that bought British antenna startup Phasor Solutions last year.
- It remains unclear how OneWeb could integrate Hanwha’s antennas into its infrastructure.
- “We will be working with a number of user terminal providers and look forward to learning more about Hanwha’s products,” a OneWeb spokesperson said.
- The investment from Hanwha gives OneWeb $300 million on top of the $2.4 billion it had already secured, which it said completed the constellation’s funding.
- OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson told SpaceNews on the sidelines of Space Symposium in Colorado that the company has not yet decided how to deploy the extra cash.
- “First of all, it’s always good to have dry powder in any business, and particularly these sorts of businesses,” Masterson said.
- He said the funds could be used to accelerate market penetration, for acquisitions or deploy a second-generation constellation faster.
- Arianespace successfully launched an extra 34 satellites for OneWeb’s first-generation network Aug. 21.
- At 288 satellites so far, OneWeb has deployed 44% of its constellation, ahead of planned services before the end of this year to Canada, the U.K. and Northern Europe.
- The operator plans to provide global services for enterprise and government customers in 2022.
• August 12, 2021: Hanwha, the South Korean Fortune 500, global technology and manufacturing company has announced a USD $300m equity investment by Hanwha Systems (“Hanwha”) in OneWeb, the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite communications company. Hanwha brings further defence capabilities and the latest antenna technologies to OneWeb, alongside relationships to new government customers and expanded geographical reach. 28)
- This investment brings OneWeb’s total equity investment since November 2020 to USD $2.7bn with no debt issuance. The investment is expected to be completed in the first half of 2022, subject to regulatory approvals.
- OneWeb’s first generation fleet of 648 satellites that will deliver global coverage in 2022 is fully funded. To date, the company has launched 254 satellites into orbit, with another launch planned this August from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Thanks to the success of recent launches, OneWeb’s network will be ready to offer connectivity services from 50th parallel and above by the end of 2021.
- Sunil Bharti Mittal, Founder and Chairman of Bharti Enterprises, said: “We welcome Hanwha to OneWeb. These are exciting and fast paced times in the space sector. With Hanwha alongside, we will be able to access the highest quality of technological thinking and development. They are a powerful partner in our global mission to connect the world.”
- Youn Chul KIM President, Chief Executive Officer and Director at Hanwha Systems said: "We are pleased to join hands with OneWeb, which has strength in the LEO communication area, the core of space business. To OneWeb ‘s vision of connecting all the people across the globe, Hanwha System’s satellite and antenna technology will bring more advantages."
- UK Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Today’s $300m investment in OneWeb by Hanwha is the latest in a series of votes of confidence in the company from the market. It’s clear that leading global investors see a promising future for this ground-breaking company and a robust commercial case for investment.
- “The Government’s equity stake in OneWeb not only allows the UK to capitalise on our first-mover advantage to deploy low Earth orbit technology but will put our country at the forefront of the small satellite market, which is set to rapidly expand over the years ahead.”
- Neil Masterson, Chief Executive at OneWeb, said: “Hanwha brings advanced defence and antenna technology development to the OneWeb line-up. We are all delighted that they have chosen to join us on this journey of innovation, shaping a global service to connect the most remote locations and to provide a critical digital pathway from space to our interconnected world.”
- On completion, OneWeb will appoint a Board Director to represent Hanwha’s share in the Company.
• August 12, 2021: The next Arianespace mission is planned from Baikonur Cosmodrome with Soyuz on August 20 (local time), to deliver 34 satellites into orbit bringing the total OneWeb’s fleet to 288 satellites in Low Earth Orbit. 29)
- This 59th Soyuz mission conducted by Arianespace and its Starsem affiliate will be the first launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in 2021 and represents the ninth launch for OneWeb overall.
- Flight ST34, the first commercial mission performed by Arianespace and its Starsem affiliate from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in 2021, after four successful launches from Vostochny earlier this year, will put 34 of OneWeb’s satellites into a near-polar orbit at an altitude of 450 kilometers. The mission will have a total duration of three hours and 45 minutes and will include a first separation of two satellites followed by eight separations of four satellites, which will raise themselves to their operational orbit. This ninth launch to the benefit of OneWeb will raise to 288 the number of satellites deployed for the global telecommunications operator.
- This launch represents a straight continuation of the ambition carried and achieved by the previous one. On July 1st, ST33 placed into orbit enough satellites to enable connectivity services to the 50th parallel and above by years end which includes Canada, U.K., Northern Europe, Alaska and Arctic regions. OneWeb’s launch campaign will continue thereafter as it works toward delivering global service in 2022.
- OneWeb’s constellation will deliver high-speed, low-latency connectivity services to a wide range of customer sectors including aviation, maritime, backhaul services, as well as governments, emergency response services and more. Central to its purpose, OneWeb seeks to bring connectivity to every place where fiber cannot reach, and thereby bridge the digital divide.
- Once deployed, the OneWeb constellation will enable user terminals that are capable of offering 3G, LTE, 5G and Wi-Fi coverage, providing high-speed access globally – by air, sea and land.
- OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus Defence and Space, is the constellation’s prime contractor. The satellites were built thanks to its leading-edge satellite manufacturing process that can build up to two satellites a day on a series production line dedicated to the assembly, integration, and testing of the satellites.
• July 26, 2021: British telecoms regulator Ofcom (Office of Communications) is proposing rule changes that would affect Starlink, OneWeb and other satellite constellations operating in non-geostationary orbits (NGSO). 30)
- It is increasingly difficult for companies to agree on how to operate their NGSO networks without causing harmful radio interference to each other, Ofcom warned in a July 26 consultation document it issues before creating new rules.
- NGSO operators are required to coordinate their networks under International Telecommunication Union (ITU) radio regulations; however, Ofcom pointed to how “in many cases” these arrangements have not yet concluded.
- “This creates a risk that interference between NGSO networks could cause localized degradation to the quality and reliability of these services,” it stated.
- SpaceX’s Starlink constellation is currently estimated to exceed 1,600 satellites in NGSO, U.K.-based OneWeb has 254 and Canada’s Kepler Communications is operating around 15. All aim to expand their network significantly.
- Canada-based Telesat, Amazon’s Project Kuiper and other NGSO ventures are racing to join them with large constellations of their own in low Earth orbit.
- Ofcom proposes new checks on interference risks when it considers NGSO license applications and more powerful tools to deal with them if they emerge.
- It said it is also seeking greater visibility into license applications in a public comment period that ends Sept. 20.
- Following this consultation period, Ofcom plans to confirm and implement licensing changes in a public statement that will be published before the end of 2021.
- “We also want to mitigate the risk of earlier systems hindering the deployment of those coming later because of the interference they could cause, and therefore potentially restricting competition,” Ofcom added in the document.
- “To do this we are proposing new checks on competition when we consider NGSO licence applications.”
- The changes affect Ofcom-issued “Satellite (Earth Station Network)” licenses that any operator delivering services in the U.K. must have if they want to use NGSO user terminals.
- Rules around Ofcom’s “Satellite (Non-Geostationary Earth Station)” licenses, which authorize gateways that connect to the in-orbit networks, are also in line for an update.
- Ofcom said a “small number” of existing licenses would have to be adjusted if it issues new rules.
- Starlink, OneWeb and Kepler have existing “Satellite (Earth Station Network)” licenses under Ofcom for operating in the U.K.
- Notably, Ofcom said it is not processing any new license applications during the consultation process.
- To ensure all relevant satellite equipment becomes subject to the updated rules, it is also removing an existing license exemption for user terminals that are being developed to operate in Ka-band.
- As part of the changes, Ofcom expects to establish a period for comments on license applications when it issues new NGSO licenses, enabling stakeholders to provide information on how they could cause interference or impact competition.
- Viasat, which operates broadband satellites in geostationary orbit (GEO), and TV broadcaster Dish Network are pursuing legal action in the U.S. to stop Starlink’s expansion.
- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied a motion from Viasat July 20 to halt Starlink’s deployment while it seeks to compel a thorough environmental review of the megaconstellation.
- Ofcom said in its consultation document that it recognizes “the growing significance of these new systems to the space sector more broadly and will be considering this in more detail as part of our Space Sector Spectrum Strategy,” which will be published this fall.
• June 29, 2021: Indian telecom company Bharti Global is set to own the largest share of low-Earth-orbit broadband venture OneWeb, after investing an extra $500 million to complete the constellation’s funding. 31)
- Bharti and the British government jointly bought OneWeb out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy for $1 billion in 2020, rescuing the startup in the middle of a pandemic that had disrupted its funding plans.
- Japanese internet giant SoftBank, which was the venture’s largest shareholder before OneWeb fell into bankruptcy, invested $350 million in January and U.S.-based antenna maker Hughes Network Systems injected $50 million.
- In April, French satellite operator Eutelsat paid $550 million for what would have given it a 24% stake in OneWeb.
- However, Bharti had a call option to increase its holding, which it said June 29 it had activated.
- That gives the Indian group 38.6% of the company. The U.K. government, Eutelsat and Softbank will each own 19.3% — if Eutelsat and Bharti’s latest investments get regulatory clearances later this year.
- OneWeb said another call option exists that might change its final shareholder structure in the future.
- Bharti’s investment means OneWeb has secured the $2.4 billion it needs for deploying 648 satellites by 2022, providing connectivity to enterprise, government, maritime and aviation customers.
- Arianespace is due to launch another batch of 36 satellites for OneWeb July 1, from Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia, expanding its network to 254 in orbit as it prepares to start partial services this year.
- That launch will also give OneWeb coverage north of 50 degrees latitude, spanning the United Kingdom, Alaska, Northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland, the Arctic Seas and Canada.
- SpaceX’s Starlink LEO broadband constellation is estimated to have more than 1,600 in orbit following an aggressive launch campaign.
- Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president, recently said it will be able to provide global coverage by around September — dependent on various regulatory approvals.
- However, OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson said his startup has the advantage of having a “significantly lower entry cost of any LEO” broadband constellation.
- “We benefit from $3.4bn of pre-Chapter 11 investment by the original shareholders, making new OneWeb a three-times lower cost Constellation,” Masterson said in a statement.
- “With the forthcoming launch we will have completed 40% of our Network. We are intently focused on execution and just ten more launches will enable us to deliver global coverage. Investors have backed the extraordinary efforts of the OneWeb team to deliver more of the global connectivity the World needs.”
• May 26, 2021: Eutelsat’s investment in OneWeb may be incompatible with continued participation in the European Union’s proposed satellite broadband constellation, an EU official warned. 32)
Figure 8: Thierry Breton (right), EU commissioner for the internal market, whose portfolio includes space, visited the offices of the newly renamed EU Agency for the Space Program (EUSPA) in Prague May 24 (image credit: EUSPA)
- Eutelsat is part of an industry consortium that received a study contract from the European Commission in December 2020 to examine the feasibility of a European satellite constellation to provide secure communications and broadband services, particularly for underserved parts of Europe. The contract, which includes a wide range of European space and telecommunications companies, is worth 7.1 million euros ($8.7 million) and will last a year.
- Eutelsat, though, is also taking investing in OneWeb, the broadband constellation that emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year after being acquired by the British government and Indian telecommunications company Bharti Global. Eutelsat announced April 27 it was acquiring a 24% stake in OneWeb for $550 million.
- Thierry Breton, the EU commissioner whose portfolio includes space, suggested in a call with reporters May 24 that Eutelsat’s OneWeb stake may pose a conflict of interest. “Personally, I do not see how, structurally and in governance, an entity can have stakes in two competing projects,” he said when asked about Eutelsat’s investment in OneWeb.
- He said he did not oppose, in general, Eutelsat’s investment in OneWeb. “They are free to do it, of course. I don’t want to prevent it,” he said. “However, we took a good note of the decision of Eutelsat to invest into a project in direct competition with the European initiative that we’re working on.”
- He emphasized the importance of the satellite communications project to the “strategic autonomy” of Europe. “It is therefore important to preserve the interests of the Union,” he said, including reconsidering Eutelsat’s continued participation in the project.
- Eutelsat, in comments last week after a conference session about the status of EU constellation study, argued that the two projects are not in conflict with each other, since the EU effort is focused more on the needs of European institutions, while OneWeb is doing business with companies and governments worldwide.
- Breton suggested he was unhappy with the industry group’s progress on the satellite communications study. “To tell you the truth, it was very interesting, it was important, but not too innovative,” he said of the first results from that effort. He said the EU will commission a second study involving smaller businesses and startups, rather that the larger companies involved in the first one. They will provide a report within two months. “My dream will be to be able to go on vacation with this new study.”
- The briefing was linked to Breton’s visit to the offices of the EU Agency for the Space Program (EUSPA), the former European Agency for Global Navigation Satellite Systems that was rebranded, with an expanded mandate, earlier this year. EUSPA’s focus will expand beyond the Galileo satellite navigation program to include the Copernicus series of Earth observation satellites as well as satellite communications and space situational awareness.
- The creation of EUSPA led some in the European space community to believe the EU was trying to create a competitor to the European Space Agency, an independent organization outside the EU umbrella. Both the EU and ESA have worked to clarify that EUSPA will carry out different roles than ESA, focusing more on operations than research and development.
- “EUSPA is more focused, if I may say so, on exploitation of Galileo,” he said, and later with Copernicus. “ESA is more of the design architect for the future generation of our satellites.”
- The EU and ESA are still finalizing what’s known as the Financial Framework Partnership Agreement that governs the roles and responsibilities of the two nations as they work on joint projects like Copernicus and Galileo. Breton said those negotiations are nearly complete, with a goal of completing it by June 22.
- “I’m very happy with the cooperation that we have with the new director general of ESA,” he said, referring to Josef Aschbacher, who took over the job in March.
• May 24, 2021: A OneWeb-led group has secured government funding to launch a beam-hopping satellite in 2022, demonstrating how a spacecraft could switch its coverage area in real-time to respond to surges in demand. 33)
- OneWeb, which has launched a third of its initial 650-strong constellation to LEO (Low Earth Orbit), said the so-called Joey-Sat spacecraft will test capabilities for a second-generation network it aims to start launching in 2025.
Figure 9: Joey-Sat’s beam-hopping technology could be used on OneWeb's next-generation constellation (image credit: OneWeb)
- The UK Space Agency awarded the group 32 million British pounds ($45 million) for the pilot mission, through ESA’s Sunrise program.
- OneWeb, partly owned by the British government, is teaming up with antenna maker SatixFy, ground station technology firm Celestia UK and satellite servicing startup Astroscale UK.
- SatixFy is getting the largest share of the funding at 25 million British pounds to build Joey-Sat’s beam-hopping payload and user terminal.
- According to SatixFy, the technology is the next step for HTS (High Throughput Satellites) that have been developing spot beam technology over the last decade.
- Joey-Sat’s design will enable it to remotely direct beams to increase capacity at higher usage areas in response to commercial demand spikes or emergencies such as natural disasters.
- In March, SatixFy agreed to build an in-flight connectivity terminal for OneWeb that will work with its LEO constellation, as well as geostationary (GEO) satellite systems operated by others.
- “From helping during a disaster to providing broadband on planes, this amazing technology will show how next-generation 5G connectivity can benefit all of us on Earth,” U.K. Science Minister Amanda Solloway said in a statement.
- “It is fantastic to see some of our finest space tech companies joining forces on this exciting project which will put the UK at the forefront of satellite communications technology.”
- SatixFy also entered a deal in March with Canadian satellite operator Telesat, giving it early access to modem chips that can support beam hopping for the Lightspeed LEO constellation it is developing.
- Celestia secured 4.4 million British pounds in Sunrise funding to trial ground station technology featuring a multibeam electronically steered antenna.
- Astroscale got 2.5 million British pounds to develop technologies that could safely deorbit unresponsive satellites like Joey-Sat.
- Its funding will support a servicing spacecraft it is developing called ELSA-m, which will demonstrate capabilities in 2024 for removing multiple retired satellites in a single mission.
- Astroscale’s ELSA-d servicer is currently in orbit, planning to conduct its first end-to-end test of technologies for debris removal this summer.
- “This ambitious project with OneWeb is the next step towards maturing our technologies and refining our UK capabilities to develop a full-service Active Debris Removal offering by 2024,” Astroscale UK managing director John Auburn said.
- Auburn added: “This multi-client strategy will drive down service costs and incentivise large satellite constellation partners to accelerate the speed at which they remove space junk.”
- Currently, Astroscale’s spacecraft can only latch onto satellites with compatible docking plates, and OneWeb is so far the only constellation that has added them to its spacecraft.
U.K. space boost
- The U.K. government sees debris cleanup and other emerging space markets as an important part of its strategy to capture 10% of the world’s space economy by 2030.
- In its latest update on reaching this target, included in its “Size and Health of the UK Space Industry” report published May 19, the government said its share sood at 5.1%.
- The report covers the 2018-2019 financial year, meaning the data it obtained from organizations could be for any 12-month period within those years.
- The U.K.’s share of the world’s space market was unchanged from its last update, covering the 2017-2018 financial year, as growth matched that of the global industry.
- Income increased 5.7% over the period to 16.4 billion British pounds, while the number of organizations with space-related activity increased from 948 to 1,218.
- Space-related employment grew from 41,900 to 45,100 over the period. The amount of industry research and development investments surged 18% to 702 million British pounds, which it said was five times the national average intensity.
- “The UK space industry is booming and this strong growth is a key part of our plans to level up and build back better from the pandemic, creating thousands of high value space jobs in regions right across the UK,” Solloway said in a statement that joined the report.
- “As we look to fulfil our bold ambitions for space, including the first satellite launches from UK soil next year, I look forward to seeing the sector growing further with more young people pursuing exciting careers in space, all while helping to cement the UK’s status as a global space superpower.”
- The report, based on surveys conducted by consultancy know.space, also looked at diversity for the first time and found just 36.5% of space industry employees in the U.K. identify as female.
• May 10, 2021: OneWeb, the U.K.-headquartered low Earth orbit (LEO) broadband operator, is buying Texas-based managed satcoms provider TrustComm to create a new government subsidiary. 34)
Figure 10: OneWeb's constellation grew to 182 satellites following its latest launch April 25, 2021 (image credit: Roscosmos, Space Center Vostochny, TsENKI)
- The deal comes soon after the U.S. AFRL (Air Force Research Laboratory ) contracted OneWeb to demonstrate managed satcom services in Arctic locations.
- “OneWeb’s acquisition of TrustComm underpins our strategy to rapidly scale satellite communications service to the U.S. Department of Defense and other government agencies as they look to integrate high throughput, low latency solutions to meet new connectivity demands,” OneWeb head of government services Dylan Browne said in a statement.
- TrustComm CEO Bob Roe will lead a new subsidiary at OneWeb following the deal it expects to close this year, after regulatory approvals.
- OneWeb has only launched a third of its constellation of 650 satellites, but said it successfully demonstrated data rates of up to 500 Mbit/s to the DoD in March. It is advertising average network speeds of up to 195 Mbit/s.
- TrustComm signed an agreement March 16 to be OneWeb’s DoD distribution partner, focusing on early adopters including the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and U.S. Army Futures Research Lab.
- Established in 1999, TrustComm will be an important access point to the U.S government market for OneWeb, which expects the DoD will be its largest customer.
- The acquisition’s financial details were not disclosed.
- OneWeb’s 18-month contract with AFRL is worth about $3.4 million for testing services between certain U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) sites.
- The increasingly strategic Arctic region suffers from poor connectivity because of its high latitude and extreme terrain.
- OneWeb aims to offer services in the Arctic region this fall after two more launches, each placing 36 satellites in polar orbits.
- SpaceX has also been launching Starlink LEO broadband satellites into polar orbits.
- However, Rick Lober, vice president and general manager of the defense and intelligence systems division at Hughes, told SpaceNews May 5 that only OneWeb will be able to deliver 24-hour high throughput services to strategic Arctic regions by the end of 2021.
- U.S.-based Hughes Network Systems, a OneWeb investor supplying parts of its ground segment, is prime contractor for the AFRL contract.
• May 5, 2021: The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has contracted low Earth orbit broadband venture OneWeb to demo managed satcom services in strategic Arctic locations. 35)
Figure 11: The OneWeb gateway in Svalbard, Norway, capable of 10,000 handoffs per second, is one of the gateways developed by Hughes that will orchestrate handover and tracking of gigabits of data for NORTHCOM [image credit: OneWeb/Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT)]
- Project prime contractor Hughes Network Systems, a OneWeb investor supplying parts of its ground segment, will test the services between certain U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) sites.
- “The OneWeb constellation has been designed to enable low-latency broadband access across the globe, allowing connectivity in previously unreached areas—a capability that is ideal for tactical, multi-domain operations in the Polar region and beyond,” OneWeb head of government services Dylan Browne said in a statement.
- The Department of Defense contract is part of the U.S. Air Force’s Defense Experimentation Using the Commercial Space Internet (DEUCSI) program.
- OneWeb’s satellites are in polar orbits, and Browne told SpaceNews in March that this gives the company an advantage for Arctic regions of growing geopolitical interest.
- Currently, only Iridium Communications boasts pole-to-pole satcom coverage.
- However, SpaceX launched its first batch of Starlink LEO broadband satellites to polar orbit Jan. 24, supplementing the growing number of spacecraft it is sending to other orbits.
- In December 2018, SpaceX secured a three-year, $28 million contract under the DEUCSI program to test ways the military could use Starlink.
- Several other companies, including hardware providers Ball Aerospace, L3Harris, Raytheon and others, have also secured contracts under DEUCSI to explore how commercial broadband services could be integrated with military platforms.
- Nearly 1,500 Starlinks are currently in orbit, following SpaceX’s latest launch of 60 satellites May 4.
- SpaceX recently modified its license to operate 4,408 Starlinks at around 550 kilometers.
- OneWeb has 182 of a constellation of about 650 in orbit at around 1,200 kilometers, following its latest launch April 25.
- The company plans to start offering services in the Arctic region this fall after launching two more batches of 36 satellites.
- U.S.-based Hughes, which is producing the company’s gateway equipment and user terminal core modules, is managing the Arctic service demos for the U.S. Air Force. It is partnering with South Korea’s Intellian, the antenna maker designing OneWeb’s user terminals.
- “This opportunity reinforces the relationship between Hughes and the U.S. Air Force to ensure resilient, flexible SATCOM networks for tactical, multi-domain operations,” stated Rick Lober, vice president and general manager of the defense and intelligence systems division at Hughes.
- “We look forward to partnering with OneWeb to bring LEO innovation into the military SATCOM enterprise, especially in the strategic Arctic region where connectivity has been limited—until now.”
- Lober told SpaceNews in an email that it will start staging the LEO network in “the next few months” at Hughes and government locations in the U.S., before moving to the Arctic this fall.
- “This particular contract covers experimentation only,” he said.
- “As the system matures and other DoD users such as NORTHCOM develop specific requirements, a service contract is a possible option through various contract vehicles.”
- He added: “Our understanding is the Hughes-OneWeb team will deliver the only system with high throughput service to support the strategic Arctic region, 24 hours per day by the end of this year.”
- An AFRL spokesperson said the contract value is about $3.4 million.
- The British government and Indian telecom company Bharti Global bought OneWeb out of bankruptcy last year with a $1 billion investment. In January this year, OneWeb raised $350 million from Japanese internet giant SoftBank and $50 million from Hughes.
- After a $550 million investment April 27 from French satellite operator Eutelsat, OneWeb is expected to raise about $500 million this year to complete the constellation’s funding.
• April 27, 2021: French satellite operator Eutelsat is paying $550 million to buy part of OneWeb, the startup deploying a broadband network in low Earth orbit. 36)
- The company is buying a 24% stake to give it similar governance rights to the British government and Indian telecom company Bharti Global, which bought OneWeb out of bankruptcy last year.
- Part of the investment will be funded by the $507 million that Eutelsat is getting from clearing C-band spectrum in the U.S. for terrestrial 5G networks.
- The Paris-based company operates a fleet of geostationary (GEO) satellites, but has been dipping its toes into LEO with a constellation called Eutelsat ELO, targeting the market for connecting Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
- The first nanosatellite for this network, ELO Alpha, is slated to launch April 20 on a Vega rocket that is delayed following a launch failure in November.
- Buying a part of OneWeb’s LEO broadband constellation is a major strategy shift for Eutelsat, which is seeing its satellite TV business slowly decline as Netflix and other streaming services rise in popularity.
- “OneWeb will become our main growth engine outside our broadcast and broadband applications, as we continue to maximize cash-flow extraction from our highly profitable heritage business and grow our fixed broadband vertical leveraging our geostationary assets,” Eutelsat CEO Rodolphe Belmer said in a statement.
- Arianespace launched the latest batch of 36 OneWeb spacecraft April 25, growing the operator’s satellites to 182 ahead of partial services this year.
- OneWeb aims to launch two more batches of 36 satellites by June to expand coverage north of 50 degrees latitude, spanning the United Kingdom, Alaska, Northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland, the Arctic Seas and Canada.
- It expects to provide global services with 650 satellites in 2022 to enterprise, government, maritime and aviation customers.
- Following the investment from Eutelsat, which will give the French company a board seat, OneWeb’s LEO fleet could potentially find synergies with broadband satellites in GEO.
- Canadian GEO satellite operator Telesat, which plans to start launching its LEO broadband constellation Lightspeed next year, was previously the only megaconstellation player exploring this kind of opportunity.
- Sunil Bharti Mittal, OneWeb’s executive chair, said: “Together we are stronger, benefiting from the entrepreneurial energy of Bharti, extensive global outreach of UK and long-term expertise of the satellite industry at Eutelsat.”
$1.9 billion in fresh equity
- OneWeb emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November with a $1 billion investment from Bharti and the British government — each owning 42.2% at the time.
- The startup said Jan. 15 it raised $350 million from SoftBank, which was its largest shareholder before it filed for Chapter 11, and $50 million from Hughes Network Systems.
- Comments made earlier by Mittal suggest that, following Eutelsat’s investment, the company now needs to raise about $500 million to complete the constellation.
- Eutelsat said April 27 that OneWeb is “well advanced in terms of securing its remaining funding needs this year.”
- OneWeb expects to generate around $1 billion in annual revenues in three to five years after deploying its full constellation.
- Eutelsat said it is set to close its OneWeb deal in the second half of this year following regulatory approvals.
• April 8, 2021: The new chief executive of OneWeb says the company is still pursuing some kind of navigation capability for its broadband satellite constellation, although a full-fledged service may have to wait until a second-generation system. 37)
Figure 12: OneWeb and Softbank say negotiations with Intelsat for exclusive capacity distribution rights never reached a conclusion (image credit: OneWeb)
- Neil Masterson, a former executive with Thomson Reuters who was named chief executive of OneWeb when it emerged from bankruptcy in November 2020, said the company was planning to demonstrate a navigation service later this year, working with unnamed British organizations. The British government, along with Indian telecom company Bharti Global, acquired OneWeb out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year.
- “We expect to have a demo capability available later this year, and we’re working with certain bodies in the U.K. to advance our thinking there and help design that,” he said during a session of the Satellite 2021 LEO Digital Forum April 7. “We think that there’s something that can be done with the existing Gen 1 design. It’s a bit premature to talk about that right now, but we’re quite focused on that.”
- His comments echo those made by OneWeb’s executive chairman, Sunil Bharti Mittal, who said in December that the first-generation satellites could provide a timing service, but that a full-fledged PNT (Positioning, Navigating and Timing) system would have to wait until a second generation of satellites. “We have the ambition of providing PNT services through OneWeb,” he said. “We believe we will be onto this path in the coming years.
- Masterson also said that a full PNT system would have to wait until a second generation of the constellation. “To be a real alternative to GPS, we’ll have to wait until the second generation,” he said. “It is possible to provide some form of PNT services that are good enough, and certainly able to provide a form of redundancy. And that is where we will start from.”
- The British government’s decision to partner with Bharti on acquiring OneWeb has been linked in the minds of many in the industry in the government’s desire for its own satellite navigation system. After exiting the European Union, the British government can no longer access secure Galileo services sued by European militaries. The British government studied, but then abandoned, proposals to develop a standalone satellite navigation system.
- Using OneWeb for navigation services would face many challenges, including the fact that it does not use frequencies reserved for satellite navigation services like GPS and Galileo. There have been, however, studies about using low Earth orbit satellite constellations like SpaceX’s Starlink to provide alternative navigation services.
- Masterson offered no clues in his presentation about when OneWeb might pursue a second-generation system that could include a dedicated PNT service or other capabilities. The company’s focus is on deploying its initial constellation of 648 satellites to provide broadband services, which the company expects to complete next year. Service in polar regions north of 50 degrees latitude could begin later this year after three more Soyuz launches of 36 satellites each.
- “We’re starting to think about it already,” he said of a second-generation system. “I would like to hold off a little while before we make firm decisions on that because I really want to hear from our customers about what they want.”
- OneWeb, besides continuing to deploy those first-generation satellites, still needs to raise about $1 billion to complete the system. “We feel very confident about finding the remaining funding,” he said. He declined to offer a schedule for raising that funding.
• April 7, 2021: As part of its mission to deliver low latency, ‘fibre-like’ connectivity to the maritime and offshore industries, Low Earth Orbit (LEO) broadband satellite communications company OneWeb, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with The AST Group (AST), a global leader in satellite communications systems. 38)
- By working together, AST and OneWeb will offer fixed-land and maritime customers access to OneWeb’s fast, flexible and affordable connectivity solutions seamlessly in even the most remote locations on land and at sea. Customer beta trials will be undertaken with AST before the end of the year and will be focused on delivering fixed services to support remote connectivity in Northern Europe.
- Once full commercial service is available in 2022, OneWeb seeks to provide AST’s customers, primarily in the commercial shipping, fishing and high-end offshore sectors, with access to viable, high speed, low latency connectivity as an alternative to the current VSAT internet solutions to truly enable digitization and deliver the long-awaited leap in operational efficiencies.
- This comes at a time when regulatory and commercial influences are driving demand for companies in maritime and offshore industries to decarbonise, improve broader sustainability and governance standards as well as improving business performance – all of which are underpinned by the need for more technology and data.
- Commenting on the partnership, Gregory Darling, AST’s founder and Chairman said: “We’re delighted to strengthen our relationship with OneWeb by becoming its distribution partner so that we can offer customers a fibre-like alternative to current solutions. AST’s focus is solution-based to ensure that customers improve their overall operational efficiency. OneWeb’s new satellite constellation and next-generation connectivity aligned with AST’s INTEGRA network services will enable faster and better communications for the maritime industry. This new agreement marks further progress towards this transition.”
- Carole Plessy, Head of Maritime at OneWeb, said: “OneWeb believes that connectivity at sea should be as seamless and simple as it is onshore to improve the overall efficiency, sustainability and profitability of the maritime and offshore industries.
- We’re proud to work with The AST Group, not just because of the strength of its market insight, reach and capabilities, but because of our shared belief that remote, faultless connectivity is essential to delivering operational excellence. By partnering with AST, we are another step closer to making LEO connectivity available to more marine and offshore customers, ending the legacy of complex, slow and costly VSAT systems.”
• March 28, 2021: OneWeb plans to start offering broadband from space in the Arctic region this fall, a capability the company hopes will attract U.S. government and other national government customers. 39)
- “Our focus now is Alaska and the Arctic,” OneWeb’s head of government services Dylan Browne told SpaceNews.
Figure 13: OneWeb has 14 operational antennas in Svalbard, Norway, hosted by KSAT Kongsberg Satellite Services (image credit: OneWeb)
- Since OneWeb came back from bankruptcy in November “we’ve been busy setting up engagements with the U.S. government,” Browne said. The company is now owned by the British government and Indian telecom company Bharti Global.
- OneWeb is racing to provide coverage in the Arctic where currently only Iridium offers satellite-based communications services. Following the latest launch of 36 satellites on March 25, OneWeb has 146 in operation. Browne said the company needs to deploy three more batches of 36 satellites to cover areas north of 50 degrees latitude, which would include Alaska and much of the Arctic region. The company is planning a constellation of about 650 satellites for global coverage.
- OneWeb satellites orbit around the poles. “Every time we put a satellite up we get a concentration above the poles which is really serendipitous because from a government and DoD perspective, that’s an area of geopolitical interest,” Browne said.
- “LEO scratches an itch for some of the new and emerging challenges the Department of Defense has,” he added.
- The Arctic has become an area of strategic interest where melting ice caps have set off a race for resources, and Russia and China are trying to grow their influence. The ability to provide coverage in the Arctic gives OneWeb an advantage over competitors, said Browne. “It sounds a bit cliche but timing is everything.”
- The demand for satellite-based communications in the Arctic is coming from both the commercial and government sides, Browne said. Industries like oil and gas are target customers, but the immediate requests are coming from governments, he said. “We literally just got a request from the office of the prime minister of Finland,” he added. “We have a strong engagement with Norway. This week we did a briefing for Icelandic regulators. They need high speed, low latency satellite connectivity for their maritime patrols.”
- OneWeb on Friday announced an agreement with satellite communications integrator and reseller TrustComm Inc. to distribute services to U.S. military users in northern latitudes.
- TrustComm has an operations center at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston, Texas, and holds a number of DoD contract vehicles to provide managed satellite services. Browne said the U.S. Navy is one TrustComm’s major customers and will be using OneWeb’s services to provide connectivity to ships at sea.
- The coverage in the Arctic initially will be only for fixed sites. Starting in 2022 mobile services will be available, said Browne. That’s important for Navy and Coast Guard units that will be patrolling the waters.
- To increase its footprint in the U.S. military, OneWeb is hoping to get a contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory to participate in a program known as DEUCSI (Defense Experimentation Using the Commercial Space Internet). AFRL already has signed up several companies to help figure out how commercial broadband services would be integrated with military platforms.
- OneWeb also plans to compete for DoD contracts managed by the U.S. Space Force’s Commercial Satellite Communications Office. A solicitation for LEO satellite services is expected to be released this summer.
- The company also wants to work with DoD’s SDA (Space Development Agency) even though OneWeb’s network does not have inter-satellite links, which SDA requires so data can be moved around the world without having to send it back to ground stations. Browne said OneWeb’s current generation of spacecraft was not designed to have inter-satellites links but the company plans to incorporate that technology in the future.
• March 19, 2021: Flight passengers will soon be able to connect to their families and colleagues on Earth via low-orbit telecommunications satellites. 40)
- Speeds will be comparable to those at home, substantially boosting the service currently provided by geostationary satellites.
- On 19 March, communications company OneWeb signed an agreement to deliver Wi-Fi on aircraft with SatixFy, a British manufacturer of electronic components.
- They will develop in-flight connectivity terminals that will work over OneWeb’s constellation of low-Earth orbit satellites, as well as on geostationary satellite networks.
- OneWeb currently has 110 satellites in orbit but foresees a constellation of about 650.
- The terminals will use electronically steered multi-beam antenna technologies to provide multi-beam capability and operate simultaneously via many different satellites.
- The terminals use SatixFy’s state-of-the-art application-specific integrated circuit chip set, developed with the support of the UK Space Agency through ESA’s ARTES (Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems) program.
- SatixFy has formed a joint venture called JetTalk with Singapore Technology Engineering Ltd to commercialize the terminal for commercial aviation markets.
- Elodie Viau, Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications at ESA, says: “Space and satellites are becoming increasingly important to the digital economy and there is a need to get data all the time and everywhere – even on board a plane.
- “ESA is proud to have supported SatixFy in the design of the chips used for this terminal – enabling the digital transformation of society using telecommunications satellites.”
- Catherine Mealing-Jones, Director of Growth at the UK Space Agency, says: “The past year has shown that connectivity has never been more important to our daily lives, and it is exciting to see SatixFy and OneWeb working together to provide commercial passenger planes with broadband internet for the first time.
- “The new aero terminal will make use of chips developed with UK Space Agency backing, which demonstrates how supporting our most innovative companies leads to results that make a real difference for people all over the world.”
- Yoel Gat, chief executive of SatixFy, says: “The ability to deploy multi-beam, multi-satellite, multi-orbit in-flight connectivity terminals is key in SatixFy’s offerings. Aggregating capacity from multiple satellites will give customers the grade of service they expect to get on flights. This great leap forward is made possible thanks to the continuous support by ESA and the UK Space Agency.”
• March 8, 2021: Intellian Technologies Inc. with HQs in Korea announced that it has won a US$73 million contract with low earth orbit (LEO) satellite network provider OneWeb to develop and supply affordable compact user terminals. These innovative, easily-installed antennas will use next-generation technology to provide high bandwidth, low latency connectivity to OneWeb’s global satellite service, delivering to multiple markets including enterprise and government services. 41)
- “We’re delighted to collaborate with our trusted partner OneWeb to design and produce this game-changing terminal, which is set to transform satellite communications by delivering cost-effective connectivity and enhanced user experience to multiple markets,” said Eric Sung, CEO, Intellian Technologies. “This is another significant milestone for Intellian: we believe that innovation and ease of use are key to empowering connectivity, and the work jointly announced today by Intellian and OneWeb is fundamental to our goal to enable a globally connected world.”
- OneWeb is launching a constellation of 648 LEO satellites, which when complete will deliver affordable, fast, high bandwidth and low latency Ku-band connectivity to every corner of the world.
- Michele Franci, Chief of System Delivery at OneWeb, said: “We have a clear ambition to be a leader in the transformation of Space communications technology. We are delighted to continue our work with Intellian to develop a range of User Terminals that meet the needs of our customers in many different sectors including: small, medium and large enterprises; and major vertical sectors such as Enterprise, Maritime and Governments with mission critical applications.”
- The new low cost compact terminals will be unveiled later in the year and are scheduled to become available in 2022.
• March 18, 2021: The next Arianespace mission is planned from Vostochny Cosmodrome with Soyuz on March 25, to deliver 36 satellites into orbit. 42)
- By operating this fifth flight on behalf of OneWeb, Arianespace will bring the total fleet to 146 satellites in Low Earth Orbit. Arianespace is proud to share in the fulfilment of its customer’s ultimate ambition: providing internet access for everyone, everywhere.
- Flight ST30, the second commercial mission performed by Arianespace and its Starsem affiliate from the Vostochny Cosmodrome, will put 36 of OneWeb’s satellites into a near-polar orbit at an altitude of 450 kilometers. The mission will have a total duration of three hours and 51 minutes and will include nine separations of four satellites, that will raise themselves to their operational orbit. This launch will bring up to speed Arianespace’s operations this year to the benefit of OneWeb, and will raise to 146 the number of satellites deployed for the global telecommunications operator.
- OneWeb’s mission is to bring internet everywhere to everyone, by creating a global connectivity platform through a next generation satellite constellation in low Earth orbit. OneWeb’s constellation will deliver high-speed, low-latency connectivity services to a wide range of customer sectors including aviation, maritime, backhaul services, as well as governments, emergency response services and more. Central to its purpose, OneWeb seeks to bring connectivity to every place where fiber cannot reach, and thereby bridge the digital divide.
- Once deployed, the OneWeb constellation will enable user terminals that are capable of offering 3G, LTE (Long Term Evolution), 5G and Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) coverage, providing high-speed access globally – by air, sea and land.
- OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus Defence and Space, is the constellation’s prime contractor. The satellites were built thanks to its leading-edge satellite manufacturing process that can build up to two satellites a day on a series production line dedicated to the assembly, integration, and testing of the satellites.
- A total of 110 OneWeb satellites have already been orbited by Arianespace: the first six were successfully orbited by Arianespace from French Guiana on February 27, 2019. On February and March 2020, Arianespace and its Starsem affiliate successfully launched 68 OneWeb satellites from Baikonur Cosmodrome on two successful Soyuz flights. On December 2020, the team successfully delivered an additional 36 satellites into orbit, with first commercial flight operated from new Vostochny Cosmodrome.
• January 15, 2021: Broadband satellite company OneWeb announced Jan. 15 it has raised $400 million from SoftBank and Hughes Network Systems, allowing the company to continue deployment of its constellation. 43)
- The new round includes $350 million from SoftBank, who was the biggest shareholder in OneWeb before it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2020. The remainder is from Hughes Network Systems, which announced last year it would invest $50 million into the restructured company.
- The companies did not disclose the new size of SoftBank’s stake in the company, but OneWeb announced that the Japanese company would get a seat on its board. According to an October notice by the Federal Communications Commission, SoftBank owned 12.3% of the company at the time, after owning 37.41% before the Chapter 11 filing.
- The same FCC notice said that Hughes’ planned investment was still being finalized, but that the investment would not have a “meaningful impact” on OneWeb’s ownership, with Hughes holding a 2.6% stake. The British government and Indian telecom company Bharti Global, which acquired OneWeb for $1 billion, each owned 42.2% of the company at that time.
- The funding will help support the company as it continues deployment of an initial constellation of 648 satellites. “We have made rapid progress to restart the business since emerging from Chapter 11 in November,” said Neil Masterson, chief executive of OneWeb, in a statement. “We welcome the investments by SoftBank and Hughes as further proof of progress towards delivering our goal.”
- OneWeb said the funding “positions the company to be fully funded for its first-generation satellite fleet,” but the $400 million alone is insufficient to fund the company through full deployment of the constellation, expected to be completed in mid-2022. Sunil Bharti Mittal, founder and chairman of Bharti Enterprises and executive chairman of OneWeb, said last month he expected OneWeb would need $2.5 billion to complete the constellation, of which about half had been raised. That suggests the company still needs to raise about $1 billion.
- Bharti Mittal, though, was optimistic about getting that additional funding. “I don’t see raising capital for this wonderful project for the balance amount to be any issue,” he said, noting that Bharti Enterprises had raised more than $12 billion in the last 18–24 months for other projects.
- OneWeb said last month that they expected to perform launches on a roughly monthly schedule to complete the constellation, with enough satellites in orbit by the fall of 2021 to enable service to begin at latitudes above 50 degrees north. Global service would begin in 2022, once the full constellation is in orbit.
- OneWeb resumed launches of that constellation, halted by the Chapter 11 filing, Dec. 18, with the deployment of 36 satellites on a Soyuz rocket. The company has not announced a date for its next launch.
- In addition to that initial constellation, the company is working on a larger “Phase Two” constellation. In a Jan. 12 filing with the FCC, OneWeb sought to modify its original application by reducing the number of satellites in that Phase Two system from 47,844 to 6,372.
• December 16, 2020: Hughes Network Systems, LLC has been chosen by OneWeb, the LEO (Low Earth Orbit) broadband satellite communications company, to develop and manufacture essential ground system technology for the new LEO constellation. In a three-year contract valued at approximately $250 million, Hughes will produce the gateway electronics for the OneWeb system as well as the core module that will be used in every user terminal. 44)
- “Today’s announcement of a continued technology partnership with OneWeb reflects our position as the trusted innovator in the industry,” said Pradman Kaul, president, Hughes. “The ground system we develop will enable reliable, low latency broadband data, ideal for a wide range of customer applications.”
- Neil Masterson, CEO, OneWeb, said: “OneWeb is building a global broadband network to deliver high-throughput, low latency enterprise grade connectivity services for a wide range of government, commercial, and mobility use cases. Our goal is to commercialize services in a year, and our partnership with Hughes will be vital in helping us launch a secure, trusted, resilient, space-based network.”
- Designed by Hughes engineers, each OneWeb gateway is capable of 10,000 hand-offs per second, orchestrating handover and tracking of hundreds of gigabits of data across hundreds of beams and millions of users. Under an agreement with OneWeb prior to a restructuring in March, seven gateways had been installed with several more in various stages of production. Under the new agreement, Hughes has ramped up production on the gateway equipment and resumed testing on the installed systems.
- The agreement announced today also calls for Hughes to develop and manufacture the core module for the OneWeb user terminals. Designed by Hughes, the core module is uniquely adaptable across fixed as well as aeronautical and maritime mobility terminals, for either electronically or mechanically steered antennas.
- After filing for bankruptcy protection in March, OneWeb is now under ownership by a new consortium led by the U.K. Government and Bharti Enterprises and in which Hughes has agreed in principle to invest $50 million.
• December 1, 2020: Florida-based OneWeb Satellites has returned to full-scale production of spacecraft after its big client and part owner, OneWeb, emerged from bankruptcy. 45)
- The high-tech factory near Kennedy Space Center churns out eight satellites a week, which is the average pace it was on before the bankruptcy, CEO Tony Gingiss said in an interview Friday.
- "We are stronger and leaner as an organization now," Gingiss said. "We hit pause, like many others had to in 2020, due to the pandemic and the OneWeb bankruptcy, but it made us think a lot about our value proposition."
- The company is leaner because it is operating with just less than 300 people, whereas the plant had almost 400 at its peak in early 2020, he said. OneWeb Satellites plans to hire only about 15 to 20 more to maintain full production.
- OneWeb Satellites' facility began operations in March 2019, to build satellites for OneWeb's planned constellation of up to 650 broadband communications satellites. The company made over 70 satellites in 12 months, before the bankruptcy threw the operation into doubt.
- The pandemic was the reason for closing the factory for over a week, Gingiss said, and not the bankruptcy.
- "We hit pause because people wanted to take breaks for their health or their family's health, and to thoroughly clean the factory," Gingiss said. "But we did reopen and produced about one satellite per week at the low point."
- The manufacturer, which is half-owned by the OneWeb parent company, delivered 36 satellites recently for a planned launch in Russia on Dec. 17. OneWeb has 74 satellites in orbit.
• November 20, 2020: Acquisition of global satellite communications company, OneWeb, completes today, following successful government bid in July 2020. 46)
- This is a significant strategic investment, demonstrating the government’s commitment to the UK’s space sector and ambition to put Britain at the forefront of a new commercial space-age. OneWeb is now staffing up to complete the development of its first generation constellation, adding new employees in the UK, and we will continue to work with OneWeb to maximise the benefits to the UK from the OneWeb program, both before and after commercial launch.
- The company has the foundation of the network already in place with 74 satellites launched and infrastructure in development in strategic locations around the world. The company is launching another 34-36 satellites in December, bringing its in-orbit fleet to 110 satellites. OneWeb is on track to begin commercial connectivity services to the UK and the Arctic region in late 2021 and will expand to delivering global services in 2022.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said:
a) ”This strategic investment demonstrates government’s commitment to the UK’s space sector in the long-term and our ambition to put Britain at the cutting edge of the latest advances in space technology.
b) ”Access to our own global fleet of satellites has the potential to connect people worldwide, providing fast UK-backed broadband from the Shetlands to the Sahara and from Pole to Pole.
c) ”This deal gives us the chance to build on our strong advanced manufacturing and services base in the UK, creating jobs and technical expertise.”
- The government is committed to work with OneWeb’s shareholder partners to use this investment as a platform to promote UK jobs and supply chains and protect UK critical assets and intellectual property.
- OneWeb will provide a new source of broadband connectivity for businesses, communities, and governments around the world. It could also improve connectivity in a broad range of sectors, including aviation, maritime, government, and enterprise customers, unlocking digital services and applications in a wide range of locations that historically have not access to low latency broadband connectivity.
Sunil Bharti, Founder and Chairman, Bharti Global said:
a) ”Together with our partners at HMG, we are looking forward to a new Low Earth Orbit opportunity. Innovation, resilience and growth in the high-tech sector are all served by this powerful global opportunity.
b) By the end of 2022, OneWeb will be a truly global force for good.”
Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said:
a) ”This landmark government investment marks the start of an incredibly exciting period for OneWeb and the whole UK space sector, which can play a vital role in our economic recovery.
b) Global connectivity has never been more important and there is a significant opportunity for satellite constellations to deliver a range of valuable services to consumers, businesses and government.”
- OneWeb was formed in 2012, and has been developing cutting-edge satellite technology from its facilities both here in the UK and in the United States.
- The UK government will have a final say over any future sale of the company, and over future access to OneWeb technology by other countries on national security grounds.
• On October 2, 2020, the US federal bankruptcy court approved the sale of broadband megaconstellation company OneWeb to the British government and Indian telecommunications company Bharti Global. 47)
Figure 14: The court-approved reorganization plan will allow OneWeb to resume full business operations, with its sale to the British government and Bharti Global expected to close by the end of the year (image credit: OneWeb)
- At a confirmation hearing in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, judge Robert D. Drain approved the reorganization plan for OneWeb, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy there in March. That plan will allow OneWeb to resume full business operations, including resuming deployment of a constellation of 650 satellites in low Earth orbit to provide broadband internet access.
- The British government and Bharti Global offered $1 billion to acquire OneWeb in a bid accepted by the court in July. Since then, they have been working to finalize the agreement, including working out agreements with various creditors.
- The court’s approval of the plan does not complete the sale of OneWeb. The company said in a statement that the sale will close once it receives “customary regulatory approvals” that it expects to be in place by the end of the year. “In the meantime, OneWeb is resuming operations and readying its commercial services which are planned to start next year,” it stated.
- OneWeb announced Sept. 21 it had a revised contract in place with Arianespace to permit launches of its satellites on Soyuz rockets to resume in December. Two days later, the court approved $235 million in additional debtor-in-possession financing to allow company operations to continue through the end of the year, including production of new satellites at the OneWeb Satellites factory in Florida.
- “As we await the final mechanical components of the transaction, we set our eyes back to the skies with the resumption of launches later this year and commencing commercial services within a year,” Adrian Steckel, chief executive of OneWeb, said in a statement.
• September 21, 2020: Arianespace and OneWeb will resume launch operations to continue the deployment of the OneWeb constellation. 48)
- The next Soyuz launch is planned as soon as December 2020 from the Vostochny Cosmodrome.
- Pursuant to an amended launch contract with OneWeb, the London-based communications company, Arianespace will perform 16 more Soyuz launches from three spaceports (Kourou, Baikonur and Vostochny) beginning in late 2020 and continuing through 2022. These launches will enable OneWeb to complete the deployment of its full global constellation of Low Earth Orbit satellites by the end of 2022.
- “I am delighted that we are back on track to support the deployment of the OneWeb constellation and the company’s mission to bridge the digital divide at a global scale,” said Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace. “Our teams already are working hard to ensure a smooth and quick restart of the launch campaigns by year-end 2020.”
- The next Soyuz flight is scheduled for December 2020 from Vostochny with 36 satellites on board.
- Arianespace has launched 74 OneWeb satellites to date. The initial six were successfully orbited by Soyuz Flight VS21 from French Guiana on February, 2019. In February and March, 2020, Arianespace and its Starsem affiliate successfully launched 68 OneWeb satellites from Baikonur on Soyuz Flights ST27 and ST28.
- OneWeb’s goal is to deliver global connectivity from a network of 650 low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites that will provide high-bandwidth, low latency communication services to regions previously unconnected.
- In addition to the satellites, OneWeb’s global network will include gateway stations located around the world, and a range of user terminals will provide connectivity services for fixed and mobile communications. These terminals will be compatible with the future needs of the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G.
- OneWeb Satellites – a joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus Defence and Space – is the constellation’s prime contractor. The OneWeb satellites are built in OneWeb Satellites’ Florida-based series production line that is dedicated to the assembly, integration, and test of OneWeb’s satellites.
• September 21, 2020: OneWeb planned to launch up to 672 satellites into low Earth orbit with the vision to provide broadband internet access to the entire world's surface. 49)
- The United Kingdom's communications company OneWeb, which had been bought out of bankruptcy by the British government and an Indian telecom provider, confirmed on Friday (18 September) resuming satellite production.
- "Yes - satellite production is underway!" the company replied to a Twitter user.
- In 2015, the company penned a contract with Roscosmos through European aerospace company Arianespace to carry out 21 launches to deliver all the satellites into space. In late March, OneWeb filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in a New York state court after launching just 74 satellites.
- The UK government and Indian mobile network operator Bharti Global have since agreed to pay $1 billion to acquire OneWeb and fund the restart of its projects.
• August 20, 2020: OneWeb, currently proceeding slowly through its Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, is asking the US government to relax its rules on importing satellite components and materials under its Foreign Trade Zone regulations. 50)
- The Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) rules permit businesses to lower import duties and easier customs processes.
- OneWeb has made its application via its joint-venture (OneWeb Satellites North America LLC) with Airbus, which is based in Merritt Island, Brevard County, Florida, and turns out OneWeb’s satellites.
- The US Dept. of Commerce announced the application on the government’s Federal Register on August 19th.
- “Airbus OneWeb already has authority to produce satellites for commercial, private, and military applications within FTZ 136. The current request would add foreign status materials/ components to the scope of authority. Production under FTZ procedures could exempt Airbus OneWeb from customs duty payments on the foreign- status materials/components used in export production. On its domestic sales, for the foreign-status materials/ components, Airbus OneWeb would be able to choose the duty rates during customs entry procedures that apply to its already authorized finished products (duty- free). Airbus OneWeb would be able to avoid duty on foreign-status components which become scrap/waste. Customs duties also could possibly be deferred or reduced on foreign-status production equipment,” explained the Department of Commerce.
• July 28, 2020: Hughes Network Systems, an original OneWeb investor, said July 27 it would put $50 million into the consortium that is purchasing OneWeb out of bankruptcy protection. 51)
- We are pleased to be part of this winning team, along with the British Government and Bharti Enterprises,” Pradman Kaul, Hughes president, said in a news release. “Our continuing and strengthened involvement with OneWeb extends naturally from our position as a leading geostationary satellite operator and ground network innovator.”
- Germantown, Maryland-based Hughes invested $50 million in OneWeb back in 2015, alongside Airbus Group, Bharti Enterprises, Coca-Cola, Intelsat, Qualcomm, Totalplay and the Virgin Group as part of OneWeb’s $500 million Series A round.
- OneWeb raised $3.4 billion and launched 74 out of 648 small broadband satellites before filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March. The British government and Bharti placed the winning bid to acquire OneWeb in July, with each agreeing to invest $500 million to revive the megaconstellation startup.
- Hughes said it still plans to be a distribution partner for OneWeb capacity, having announced earlier this year it would offer OneWeb connectivity to customers with networks for government and business sites, cellular backhaul needs and community Wi-Fi hotspots.
- Hughes has won more than $300 million in OneWeb business for gateway antennas and other ground infrastructure that remains unfinished. Hughes had $5.4 million in unsecured claims at the time of OneWeb’s bankruptcy filing.
• July 20, 2020, OneWeb’s bankruptcy court permitted the British and Indian joint-venture, (called ‘BidCo 100’) to pay $50.7 million into OneWeb in order to start re-building its initial constellation of some 648 satellites. OneWeb is authorized by the FCC to launch 720 craft out of a potential 1,980 mega-constellation. OneWeb also has an application with the FCC to dramatically expand the number of satellites up to 48,000. 52)
Figure 15: OneWeb, now in the process of being acquired by the British government and Indian telco giant Bharti Global, is going ahead with building satellites ahead of any decision to incorporate the UK’s plans for a rival global positioning system to rival Europe’s Galileo (image credit: OneWeb)
- OneWeb’s bankruptcy court permitted the British and Indian joint-venture, (called ‘BidCo 100’) to pay $50.7 million into OneWeb in order to start re-building its initial constellation of some 648 satellites. OneWeb is authorized by the FCC to launch 720 craft out of a potential 1,980 mega-constellation. OneWeb also has an application with the FCC to dramatically expand the number of satellites up to 48,000.
- OneWeb is under an ITU (International Telecommunication Union) timetable to get its satellites into orbit, not the least of which is because the ITU requires a large proportion of the fleet to be in orbit. OneWeb told the FCC that it would be providing service to Alaska by 2019 and rapidly rolling out its service to the rest of the US.
- OneWeb is obliged by the ITU to launch 360 satellites by June 2023 and 720 by June 2026. Failure to keep to this timetable will risk the core OneWeb spectrum licenses. The FCC has endorsed this timetable.
- Currently, OneWeb has just 74 satellites on-orbit and the agreement with the incoming new owners UK/Bharti will honor most of the existing supply and launch contracts. Arianespace, for example, was under contract to launch 21 of its Soyuz rockets plus 3 launches of the new Ariane-6 rocket (itself delayed until later in 2021). Each Soyuz would carry 34 satellites.
- However, Arianespace also wants more cash. The old contract called for a total of $273.8 million for the launches. Arianespace now says that the original sum, of course, does not include interest owed on the old contract and is now seeking $286 million.
- Add to these complications the inevitable bankruptcy process and it is highly unlikely that the current fleet of satellites under production will be further delayed in order for global positioning modifications to take place.
- Prior to the bankruptcy, OneWeb was producing satellites at around two per day. At 34 satellites per launch – and an obliged 300 craft still to be launched to meet the ITU rules – ten launches will see the task completed; however, the demands are considerable. Waiting for the bankruptcy to be fully concluded, and making positioning modifications, makes this timetable much tighter.
- Last week, Airbus confirmed that it was committed to its joint-venture with OneWeb in Florida and would continue operating the joint venture’s Florida factory to turn out OneWeb’s satellites. The joint venture would also continue to seek other – non-OneWeb – satellite orders.
- There are also reports that the UK is not insisting on early adoption of its satellite positioning plans. The UK’s science, research and innovation minister Amanda Solloway said that she believes ‘new’ OneWeb would be profitable. “This investment is likely to make an economic return, with due diligence showing a strong commercial basis for investment. The deal contributes to the government’s plan to join the first rank of space nations, and signals the government’s ambition for the UK to be a pioneer in the research, development, manufacturing, and exploitation of novel satellite technologies enabling enhanced broadband through the ownership of a fleet of Low Earth Orbit satellites.”
• July 3, 2020: Government leads a successful bid to acquire OneWeb which develops cutting-edge satellite technology in the UK and in the US. 53)
a) Government-led consortium’s ownership of OneWeb strengthens UK’s place on the world stage
b) government will provide $500 million to deliver first UK sovereign space capability, alongside $500 million from Bharti Global (see Note )
c) successful bid puts UK at the cutting-edge of the latest advances in space technology.
- The government has today (3 July) led a successful bid to acquire OneWeb, which develops cutting-edge satellite technology in the UK and in the US.
- The move signals the government’s ambition for the UK to be a pioneer in the research, development, manufacturing, and exploitation of novel satellite technologies through the ownership of a fleet of Low Earth orbit satellites.
- Business Secretary Alok Sharma confirmed that the government will invest $500 million and take a significant equity share in OneWeb. This is alongside Bharti Global Ltd, which is part of a group that controls the third largest mobile operator in the world. Bharti will provide the company commercial and operational leadership, and bring OneWeb a revenue base to contribute towards its future success.
- The deal will enable the company to complete construction of a global satellite constellation that will provide enhanced broadband and other services to countries around the world.
- The deal also offers the UK strategic opportunities across a wide range of other applications, working with our international allies.
- With a sovereign global satellite system, the UK will further develop its advanced manufacturing base, making the most of its highly skilled workforce as the hardware is further developed and equipment and services are deployed to make the most of this unique capability.
- OneWeb will also contribute to the government’s plan to join the first rank of space nations, along with our commitment to making the UK a world leader in science, research and development.
- The deal is subject to US court approval and regulatory clearances and is expected to close before the end of the year.
- It follows the formation of the UK’s first-ever National Space Council, chaired by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to consider how space policy can enhance the country’s prosperity and place in the world, as well as our wider national security interests.
Note : Bharti, through Bharti Airtel, is the third largest mobile operator in the world, with over 425 million customers. Bharti Airtel has its own extensive mobile broadband networks and enterprise business, which will act as the testing ground for all OneWeb products, services, and applications. Bharti Airtel also operates India’s leading satellite broadcasting service through Airtel Digital TV to over 16 million households. 54)
• March 27, 2020: OneWeb (the Company), the global communications company with a mission to bring connectivity to everyone everywhere, announced today that the Company and certain of its controlled affiliates have voluntarily filed for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. The Company intends to use these proceedings to pursue a sale of its business in order to maximize the value of the company. 55)
- To date, the Company has successfully launched 74 satellites as part of its constellation, secured valuable global spectrum, begun development on a range of user terminals for a variety of customer markets, has half of its 44 ground stations completed or in development, and performed successful demonstrations of its system with broadband speeds in excess of 400 Mbit/s and latency of 32 ms. In addition, OneWeb’s commercial team has seen significant early global demand for OneWeb’s high-speed, low-latency connectivity services from governments and leaders in the automotive, maritime, enterprise, and aviation industries.
- This demand for connectivity delivered from low Earth orbiting satellite constellations underscores the tremendous need for high-quality connectivity, especially for rural and under-connected communities worldwide. The OneWeb ecosystem has transformed the satellite industry introducing innovative new technologies and operational advances. These developments have fundamentally changed the economics of satellite communications, opening up new markets such as cellular backhaul and connectivity on the move.
- Since the beginning of the year, OneWeb had been engaged in advanced negotiations regarding investment that would fully fund the Company through its deployment and commercial launch. While the Company was close to obtaining financing, the process did not progress because of the financial impact and market turbulence related to the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease-19).
- Today, the Company has filed a number of customary motions with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court seeking authorization to support its ongoing operations during the Chapter 11 process, including approval for the consensual use of its existing cash collateral to continue to fund the business. In addition, OneWeb is actively negotiating debtor-in-possession financing, which, if acquired and approved by the Bankruptcy Court, will ensure OneWeb is able to fund additional financial commitments as it conducts a sale process under Section 363 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Together, these actions will allow OneWeb to meet post-petition obligations to its remaining employees and certain vendors in the ordinary course.
- Adrian Steckel, Chief Executive Officer of OneWeb, stated, “OneWeb has been building a truly global communications network to provide high-speed low latency broadband everywhere. Our current situation is a consequence of the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis. We remain convinced of the social and economic value of our mission to connect everyone everywhere. Today is a difficult day for us at OneWeb. So many people have dedicated so much energy, effort, and passion to this company and our mission. Our hope is that this process will allow us to carve a path forward that leads to the completion of our mission, building on the years of effort and the billions of invested capital. It is with a very heavy heart that we have been forced to reduce our workforce and enter the Chapter 11 process while the Company’s remaining employees are focused on responsibly managing our nascent constellation and working with the Court and investors.”
• March 9, 2020: Hughes Network Systems, LLC (HUGHES), the global leader in broadband satellite networks and services, and OneWeb, the global communications company with a mission to bring connectivity to everyone everywhere, today announced that Hughes has become a worldwide distribution partner for OneWeb. 56)
- OneWeb's constellation of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites will expand Hughes service offerings and ensure its customers can access low-latency, high-speed connectivity, wherever they are. Applications will include enterprise and government networking, cellular backhaul and community Wi-Fi hotspots.
- "We are entering a new era of global connectivity demand that can only be fulfilled by a mix of data transport services, including terrestrial, geostationary and Low Earth Orbit satellites," said Pradman Kaul, president, Hughes. "OneWeb complements our service portfolio with a truly global coverage, low-latency option that will enable our customers to meet their end users' needs for connectivity everywhere."
- The new agreement expands an already successful relationship between the two companies. Hughes is an investor, through its parent company EchoStar, and an ecosystem partner to OneWeb, helping to develop essential ground network technology for OneWeb's LEO system.
- OneWeb works with carefully selected distribution partners in each of its core markets, providing new business and expansion opportunities through the low latency, global, high throughput attributes of OneWeb's network.
- "Connectivity is only truly valuable when it delivers the user experience that customers need, and in today's fast-moving digital economy, businesses and civil government organizations need high quality, continuous internet access wherever they are," said Adrian Steckel, chief executive officer, OneWeb. "I'm delighted that Hughes is joining OneWeb on our mission to deliver this vision. Hughes is already an important investor and an invaluable technology partner, and I look forward to working together to bring OneWeb's pioneering technology to markets around the world."
- OneWeb is building its initial constellation of 650 LEO satellites. By late 2021, OneWeb will be offering low latency globally, with the same capacity over the water, in the air, in previously unconnectable places, and everywhere else.
- Service testing on the satellites already in orbit is underway, using gateways that Hughes is building for the network. Results are positive, including seamless satellite and beam handovers, high speeds and low latency.
- The gateways feature multiple tracking antennas to support operation and handoff of high-speed user traffic to and from the LEO satellites, and can handle up to 10,000 terminal hand-offs per second – a technological and engineering breakthrough. Every OneWeb terminal, whether for fixed or mobile services, will incorporate a core module, including modem, developed and manufactured by Hughes.
• February 7, 2020: As a key OneWeb supplier, RUAG Space built the satellite dispenser, which functions as an interface between the Soyuz rocket and satellites. The dispenser is tailored to the need of a constellation like OneWeb, being able to deposit up to 36 satellites safely into space. 57)
Figure 16: Illustration of the RUAG Space dispenser system deploying the OneWeb satellites on Launch 2 (image credit: RUAG Space)
- "Our dispenser is super-light and includes state-of the art technology to safely place the satellites in orbit", says RUAG Space Executive Vice President Peter Guggenbach. "With our products we are contributing to this important project, which will enhance communication around the world."
- Starting from the launch in February 2020, the RUAG built OneWeb dispenser will include a conical top structure, a "hat", that has the capability to host up to four additional OneWeb satellites per mission.
- RUAG Space has developed a unique and cost effective solution that enables OneWeb to maximize the number of satellites per Soyuz launch. The top structure was developed within the contract with Arianespace for the OneWeb program.
- RUAG dispensers, produced in Sweden, are especially suitable for spacecraft constellations such as OneWeb, where a high number of spacecraft need to be placed in orbit within a short time frame. At its lower interface the dispenser structure is bolted to the launch vehicle upper stage. Each satellite is attached to the dispenser in separation nodes. The RUAG dispenser provides a stiff connection in each node during launch, a safe release and an accurate separation provided by the four separation nuts and spring units.
• February 3, 2020: Thirty-four satellites for the OneWeb constellation are ready for launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The satellites which arrived in two shipments, including one last week, have been tested, and have now been fitted into the dispenser of the Soyuz-2.1b rocket. OneWeb’s upcoming launch of 34 satellites has been scheduled for Thursday 6 February 21:42 (GMT) / Friday 7 February 02:42 (local time) from the historic Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. 58)
- “This launch will be a massive step forward for OneWeb – one step closer to the ambition of improving global connectivity. These 34 satellites will join the six currently operating flawlessly in orbit. Our joint venture OneWeb Satellites produces two satellites a day – in series production, just like Airbus makes planes,” said Jean-Marc Nasr, Head of Airbus Space Systems.
- The satellites, which are manufactured at 1/50th of the cost of a traditional spacecraft, are all fitted with plasma thrusters enabling them to reach their correct position in LEO (Low Earth Orbit) at 1,200 km.
- “Watching the first batch of our factory-built satellites launch from the Soyuz will be the realization of a four-year journey... and just the beginning,” said Tony Gingiss, CEO OneWeb Satellites. “Our factory continues to ramp up and streamline our production to deliver the next batch ... and the next ... and the next!”
- The OneWeb constellation will provide global connectivity with an initial 650 satellites. OneWeb’s mission is to provide affordable, high-speed internet connectivity everywhere for everyone, by 2021.
- After this first launch from Baikonur, OneWeb is planning to launch around 30 satellites with Soyuz rockets every month.
Figure 17: Flight readiness team at Baikonur with the OneWeb satellites-Copyright OneWeb Satellites (photo credit: Airbus)
• January 30, 2020: OneWeb, the global communications company with a mission to bring connectivity to everyone everywhere, today confirms its upcoming launch of 34 satellites has been scheduled for Thursday 6 February at 21:42(GMT) / Friday 7 February 02:42 (local time)from the historic Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. 59)
- This marks the start of a regular launch campaign during 2020 that will rapidly grow OneWeb’s first phase constellation of 648 satellites and represents one of the largest civilian satellite launch campaigns in history. Each satellite forms an integral part of the high-speed global satellite broadband network and together will activate OneWeb’s first customer demos by the end of 2020 to provide full commercial global services for sectors such as maritime, aviation, government and enterprise in 2021.
- In this first OneWeb launch of 2020, thirty-four satellites will be aboard a Soyuz launch vehicle. Arianespace will perform the launch, which will place the satellites into a near polar orbit at an initial altitude of 450 kilometers from where they will rise to their final orbit of 1,200 kilometers and form part of OneWeb’s global communications network. All the satellites are manufactured by OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus Defence and Space.
- OneWeb has chosen the theme Space for Everyone for the first launch of its 2020 Launch Program, showing how Space is becoming more relevant to everyday life as an important source of connectivity. In collaboration with governments, investors and distribution partners, OneWeb will bring its customers a new experience of connectivity together with social, educational and sustainability benefits. OneWeb’s vision is to see every school connected and it continues to be committed to tackling the digital divide that exists between the connected and unconnected.
- Launch Partner: Arianespace
- Launch Facility: Soyuz Launch Complex, Baikonur, Kazakhstan.
• November 12, 2019: The first Soyuz launch from Kazakhstan carrying a full load of more than 30 Florida-built satellites for OneWeb’s broadband Internet network has slipped from December to mid-to-late January, OneWeb officials said. 60)
- A OneWeb spokesperson said the satellites will be transported from their factory near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to the launch base at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan next month. OneWeb aims to begin limited service with its broadband network, which will eventually number at least 650 satellites.
- “We are taking the utmost care to prepare for launch and therefore are taking a few extra weeks to conduct additional tests on the satellites which will be shipped in December for launch,” said Katie Dowd, a OneWeb spokesperson. “We are targeting our next launch for mid-to-late January and remain on track for monthly launches thereafter and to begin service in the Arctic in late 2020 and global coverage in 2021.”
- OneWeb launched its first six test satellites — each about the size of a mini-fridge — in February aboard a Soyuz rocket from the Guiana Space Center in South America. Those satellites were built at an Airbus Defense and Space factory in Toulouse, France.
- OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus, opened a 105,500 square foot (9800 m2) satellite production facility in July at Exploration Park, Florida, just outside the gates of the Kennedy Space Center. OneWeb is building the rest of its satellites there, at a rate the company says will increase to produce up to two spacecraft per day.
- Arianespace won a lucrative contract in 2015 for 21 Soyuz launches to carry OneWeb’s initial constellation of 650 satellites to orbit. After the launch in February from French Guiana, Arianespace has 20 more Soyuz flights in its backlog to fill out the OneWeb constellation. The launches could take off from Baikonur, French Guiana, or the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East.
- The first flight of Europe’s new Ariane 6 rocket late next year will also loft a batch of OneWeb satellites. OneWeb and Arianespace announced the agreement for the Ariane 6 flight earlier this year. OneWeb has contract options for launches aboard two additional Ariane 6 missions.
- OneWeb’s Ku-band satellites fly polar orbit around 745 miles (1,200 km) above Earth, but the Soyuz launchers release the spacecraft — each about the size of a mini-fridge — at a lower altitude. The satellites use plasma thrusters to maneuver into the OneWeb constellation.
- OneWeb’s broadband fleet could grow to 1,980 satellites, the company said.
- Earlier this year, OneWeb announced that it demonstrated live HD video streaming through the company’s first six satellites. OneWeb and Iridium, which operates a low Earth orbit network with 66 cross-linked L-band communications and data relay satellites, announced an agreement in September to work toward a combined service offering.
- OneWeb is in heated competition with SpaceX, which has launched 120 Starlink broadband satellites on two dedicated Falcon 9 rocket flights this year, the most recent of which occurred Monday (11 November 2019 ).
• July 22, 2019: OneWeb Satellites – a joint venture of OneWeb and Airbus – today officially opened the world’s first high-volume, high-speed advanced satellite production facility to bring transformative internet connectivity to everyone, everywhere. 61)
1) Opening marks a breakthrough in technology and manufacturing, enabling first-ever rapid production of communication satellites.
2) Supports deployment of OneWeb network to bring transformative internet connectivity to everyone, everywhere.
3) Facility provides ability to produce high quality satellites at speed, cost, standard, that wasn’t possible before.
4) Opening comes just months after launch of first satellites, now operational in space.
- Historically, satellites are custom built, costing tens of millions of dollars to build, and taking more than a year to produce a single one. The OneWeb Satellites facility is the first to employ industrial-scale mass production techniques for satellites, enabling dramatically reduced costs and production times that can deliver one satellite per production shift or two a day, while significantly expanding internet connectivity and making space technology far more accessible.
- “OneWeb Satellites and its partners are transforming the satellite and space industry. By producing high quality satellites at a fraction of the cost and schedule of traditional manufacturers, we are not only enabling OneWeb to connect the planet, we are making space dramatically more accessible to everyone,” said Tony Gingiss, CEO of One Web Satellites.
- The facility’s production capabilities will first support the rapid scaling of the OneWeb network, starting with a constellation of 650 satellites and scaling to 1,980 satellites delivering global connectivity.
- With half the world’s population unconnected, and inconsistent connectivity persisting as people travel more at sea and in the skies, the high-performance communication satellites built in this facility will enable high-speed internet access that can unlock healthcare, education, and economic advancements.
- “This is a defining moment in the history of OneWeb, and the space industry. With today’s opening, we are one step closer to connecting the unconnected for the benefit of societies all over the world,” said Adrian Steckel, CEO of OneWeb. “As we gear up for more satellite launches at the end of the year, this facility will ensure we can begin delivering global connectivity in some areas as early as next year and globally in 2021.”
- The 105,500 square foot (9800 m2) production facility, which has two production lines capable of producing two satellites a day, is helping to revitalize Florida’s Space Coast with 250 new high-tech jobs and 3,000 indirect jobs through the supply chain.
- Government officials including U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, U.S. Senator Rick Scott, U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Manisha Singh, and business and community leaders in Merritt Island, Florida near the Kennedy Space Center attended the official opening with the team.
- For Airbus, this new facility is the latest step in the company’s continued and long-standing growth in U.S. manufacturing, job creation and investment. Airbus utilizes 450 U.S. suppliers in 40+ states and has spent more than $187 billion in the U.S. since 1990. Airbus spending in the U.S. supports more than 275,000 American jobs.
- “Airbus is manufacturing products in the U.S. from all of our business divisions – commercial aircraft, helicopters and now satellites,” said C. Jeffrey Knittel, Chairman and CEO of Airbus Americas. “We take seriously our partnerships in the communities where we do business, and we’re proud to contribute our aerospace manufacturing expertise to the Space Coast with 250 new high-tech jobs in Florida. We are equally excited to welcome these new employees to the Airbus OneWeb Satellites team in the U.S.”
- OneWeb Satellites’ game-changing manufacturing technology and facility also represent a tremendous opportunity for other commercial and government customers, providing end-users with dramatic cost savings and opening the door to missions that were previously unthinkable.
- “The avenue for unlocking untapped human potential lies, yet to be paved, in space,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “Private industry is a key partner in this effort as we are well on our way to a $1 trillion space economy and fueling a new revolution in technology in orbit.”
Figure 18: Photo of the OneWeb Satellites factory near the Kennedy Space Center, which opened officially for business on 22 July 2019 (image credit: OneWeb)
- Chairman Pai added: “Since my first day as Chairman of the FCC, my number one priority has been closing the digital divide and bringing the benefits of the digital age to all Americans. Promoting innovative technologies will be critical to accomplishing that priority. Satellite constellations have the ability to deliver broadband services using a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellite technologies. That’s why the FCC under my leadership approved OneWeb’s proposal and why I was pleased to attend the opening of OneWeb Satellite’s production facility. At the FCC, we’ll continue our work to make access to high-speed Internet available across the country.”
Key production and satellite statistics
a) The facility is capable of producing up to two satellites every day, or one per assembly line shift. Traditional manufacturers generally take more than a year to build a single satellite.
b) The facility can produce a satellite for approximately 1/50th of the cost of a traditional manufacturer.
c) Total Spacecraft Mass – 150 kg
d) Payload Mass – 60 kg
e) Propulsion – Electric (Xenon HET)
f) The design life of the satellites will be greater than seven years in a 500 km orbit and greater than five years in a 1,200 km orbit.
• February 25, 2019: A broadband satellite startup company plans to launch a satellite into space next week with an Anchorage elementary school’s name on it, a symbol of an intensifying race to bring cheaper, faster internet to Alaska. 62)
Figure 19: The OneWeb venture aims to make affordable, high-speed satellite internet available across the globe, including in remote communities in Alaska where service is expensive, slow, unreliable or nonexistent (image credit: Satnews Daily)
- Engineers with the company, OneWeb, visited Government Hill Elementary School on Thursday. Lesil McGuire, a former Alaska state senator, met OneWeb’s founder, Greg Wyler, in Barrow years ago. McGuire, now a consultant for OneWeb, suggested Government Hill as one of six schools around the globe to be the first to receive its satellite internet. The other schools are in Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Rwanda, Ecuador and Honduras.
- In 2017, Anchorage-based Alaska Communications signed an agreement with OneWeb to become the state’s first reseller of the broadband access.
- In Ernestina Liranzo’s fifth-grade classroom at Government Hill Elementary on Thursday morning, OneWeb engineers Kevin Macko and Katelyn Sweeney talked about satellites and took questions from students. Kids peppered the engineers with questions, about aliens, black holes and how satellites avoid crashing into each other in orbit.
Figure 20: Government Hill fifth-grader Taizano Nelson participates in an activity with OneWeb engineers Katelyn Sweeney, left, and Kevin Macko. Engineers from OneWeb, a satellite broadband company, visited a classroom at Government Hill Elementary School to talk about satellite technology (image credit: Marc Lester / ADN)
- The students later voted to name the satellite "Nanuq Polar Oso", a mash-up of Inupiaq, English and Spanish for “polar bear.” When the satellite launches, it will have a sticker on it with a map of Alaska and the school’s name, according to OneWeb.
- Eventually, an iPad-sized antenna will be installed on the roof of Government Hill Elementary to receive the satellite internet signal and allow students to communicate with the five other remote schools, McGuire said. The company is aiming to turn on its network in 2020.
• February 19, 2019: Affordable worldwide internet coverage is one step closer today, after 18 million pounds of UK Space Agency funding was awarded to OneWeb through the European Space Agency, to aid the development of its next generation satellite constellation. 63) 64)
- A global communications network in space, the system will be comprised of approximately 650 satellites initially and scale to more than 900 satellites over time.
- Science Minister Chris Skidmore is visiting the European Space Agency in the Netherlands today. He will say: "Fast internet access is something many people take for granted but in many areas of the world connectivity is still hit and miss.
- "This new 18m pound investment will go towards meeting the significant technical challenges of the project, putting the UK at the forefront of cutting-edge research and development. The commercial potential for a cost effective worldwide telecoms satellite system is huge, and the UK space sector is playing a leading role in delivering it. It is made possible by our ongoing commitment to the European Space Agency and our world-leading capabilities in space and telecommunications, which we are supporting through our modern Industrial Strategy."
- UK business OneWeb, which is headquartered in London and will employ up to 200 staff at its' White City offices, is poised to take advantage of cost effective spacecraft launch and manufacturing to deploy hundreds of satellites that could provide more affordable internet connectivity to people and businesses across the world.
- The OneWeb Sunrise program will initially focus on technologies for the next generation of satellite payloads, ground connections and space debris removal.
- The UK Space Agency investment will also support novel automation techniques and artificial intelligence to manage the proposed constellation of spacecraft and its interaction with terrestrial networks to realize global 5G connectivity.
- Adrian Steckel, CEO, OneWeb said: "Providing access to people everywhere has been the mission and vision of OneWeb since the very beginning. We will be able to realize this vision in part because of important partnerships like this one with the UK Space Agency, ESA and a range of other important partners including our European and Canadian partners. Thanks to this support, we will focus together on next generation technologies that will be game changers for realizing global 5G connectivity. - We are excited about the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to develop novel automation techniques that could help manage our constellation in future and ensure we do so safely and responsibly so that we can protect space for future generations."
- Today's announcement comes as a result of the UK's leading investment in the European Space Agency's telecommunications research program ARTES (Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems).
- ESA is independent of the European Union and hosts its European Center for Space Applications and Telecommunications (ECSAT) in Harwell, Oxfordshire, furthering the UK's world-leading position in satellite communications.
- Magali Vaissiere, ESA Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications said: "Sunrise is a prominent endeavor falling under our Satellite for 5G Initiative. It represents the exciting and required new direction ESA is taking in support of our Member States' industry to remain at the forefront of not only the most advanced developments within the space world, but also to enable the necessary complement to the terrestrial networks that satellites will have to play to ensure a successful and fully inclusive digitization of industry and society."
- This ESA project will span seven nations including Canada and is an example of how the UK will continue to work across Europe and globally.
- The news comes as the first batch of 10 satellites of the OneWeb constellation are due to be launched on an Arianespace Soyuz rocket from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana next week (26 February).
- The UK is a world leader in telecommunications satellites. Last month EUTELSAT QUANTUM, the first satellite capable of being completely reprogrammed after launch left the UK for final assembly and testing in France.
- And in November last year, Eutelsat and Airbus signed a new contract worth hundreds of millions of pounds that will see components and parts for two further communications satellites assembled in the UK. This means that 6 out of 7 of the company's next satellites will be partially built in Britain.
- The UK space sector is growing rapidly, employing 42,000 people and playing a major role in the global shift towards the commercialization of space activities - known as 'New Space'. The UK space industry is commercially focused with 82% of income from sales to consumers and businesses. The latest industry figures show it has an income of 14.8 billion pounds, employment of 41,900 and exports worth 5.5 billion pounds.
• February 13, 2019: Arianespace has completed a major preparation milestone for its next Soyuz launch with integration of the mission’s high-profile payload: the initial six spacecraft in OneWeb’s constellation, which will provide affordable high-speed internet access for users around the world. 65) 66)
Figure 21: One of the six OneWeb satellites for launch on Soyuz Flight VS21 is integrated on its payload dispenser during activity inside the Spaceport’s S3B payload preparation facility (image credit: Arianespace)
- The spacecraft – produced by the OneWeb Satellites joint venture of OneWeb and Airbus – will be orbited on Arianespace’s first Soyuz mission of 2019 from the Spaceport in French Guiana. Designated Flight VS21, it has a targeted liftoff of February 26.
- Integration of the six satellites on their multi-payload dispenser system – which will deploy them during the mission from atop Soyuz’ Fregat upper stage – was completed in the Spaceport’s S3B payload preparation facility.
- Once placed in a near-polar orbit by Soyuz, the OneWeb spacecraft will operate at an altitude of 1,200 km, giving customers extremely low latency and providing communications access to the entire world with fiber-quality internet connectivity. OneWeb is building the world’s largest and highest throughput satellite system to connect everyone, everywhere – by land, air, sea with a vision to bridge the digital divide once and for all.
• January 22, 2019: OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture between Airbus and OneWeb, today announced the delivery of the first satellites for the OneWeb constellation. 67)
- The satellites were manufactured at the OneWeb Satellites facility on the Airbus Defence and Space Toulouse site and the first six have been shipped to Kourou for launch. The first launch of the mega constellation is scheduled for 19 February 2019 on a Soyuz rocket - the beginning of a long series.
Figure 22: Photo of two Oneweb satellites at the Airbus Toulouse Facility (image credit: Airbus, Oneweb)
- With this generation of satellites, OneWeb Satellites is entering a new chapter in the story that started three years ago. “Our team is transforming the space industry and we are in the midst of demonstrating we can deliver on our promises,” said Tony Gingiss, OneWeb Satellites CEO.
- OneWeb Satellites will now turn its focus to ramping up production of the full constellation of satellites in its new factory in Florida, demonstrating once again the agility of this JV (Joint Venture).
- OneWeb Satellites is a joint venture between OneWeb, a global communications company whose mission is to provide Internet to everybody, everywhere, and Airbus with its first order to include the production of ultra-high performance communications satellites. The Toulouse OneWeb Satellites facility is being used to validate the innovative production methods necessary to manufacture these satellites at a scale never achieved before, de-risk any potential issues, and lay the framework for the larger multi-line OneWeb Satellites factory near the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The satellites have a mass of about 150 kg and will operate in a near-polar 1,200 km orbit.
• December 13, 2018: Satellite broadband startup OneWeb, now three months from the launch of its first satellites, is reducing the size of its initial LEO (Low Earth Orbit) constellation by a third. Greg Wyler, OneWeb’s founder, said the company will need only 600 satellites or so instead of 900 after ground tests of the first satellites demonstrated better than expected performance. 68)
- “What it does is it lowers the cost structure to reach that first phase of global coverage,” Wyler said in a Dec. 13 interview. “Rarely do you see costs go down, so it’s a pretty big deal.”
- OneWeb had been under increased scrutiny within the satellite industry amid speculation that its satellite costs had grown well beyond their initial $500,000 target. Wyler confirmed the satellites had passed $500,000 a unit, but said the exceedance was minimal. “It is higher than the goal, but it’s significantly lower than where things would have been predicted three years ago,” he said.
- Wyler said OneWeb has added back ups for all major components on the satellites, including redundant computers and four reaction wheels per satellite, to improve the reliability of each spacecraft. OneWeb is building its satellites through a joint venture with Airbus Defence and Space.
- OneWeb has raised $1.7 billion to date from investors including Japanese conglomerate Softbank, fleet operator Intelsat and soft drink giant Coca-Cola. The heavily capitalized startup is seeking to raise the rest of its needs — at least several hundred million dollars if not over a billion based on previous estimates — through export credit agencies, though little progress has been visible since the last equity raise in late 2016.
The launches of the OneWeb constellation are presented in reverse order
• Launch 10: Soyuz Flight ST35 placed 34 more satellites into orbit. Following this 10th launch for OneWeb, Arianespace has deployed 322 satellites for the global connectivity constellation. 69)
- Nine successful launches and sixth Soyuz operated by Arianespace and Starsem since the start of the year. - With this launch, Arianespace will have deployed 1,021 satellites since its incorporation in 1980.
- Performed on Tuesday, 14 September 2021, at precisely 11:07 p.m. local time at Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome (18:07 UTC), Soyuz Flight ST35 lifted-off with 34 OneWeb satellites onboard, bringing, after the successful deployment, the size of the fleet in orbit to 322. Flight ST35 was the 60th Soyuz mission carried out by Arianespace and its Starsem affiliate, and the tenth mission to the benefit of OneWeb.
- The mission lasted three hours and 45 minutes. The 34 satellites were deployed during nine separation sequences, at an altitude of 450 km. It was also the ninth successful launch operated by Arianespace’s teams this year, bringing to 1,021 the total number of spacecraft orbited since the start of company’s operations.
- “Congratulations to all the teams who made this 60th launch with Soyuz, the 10th for OneWeb, a success. We are living a great moment today as we pass the step of our 1,000th satellite launched to space while our customer OneWeb is hitting a new pace with more than 300 satellites in orbit. This 1,000th satellite was named XiliaSat by our community in reference of the meaning of 1,000 in ancient Greek in a contest on our social media,” said Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace. “This launch illustrates the recent acceleration in space operation – one third of these 1,000 Arianespace-launched satellites orbited over the 20 past months – and thus it is incumbent upon us, as leaders in the space sector, to embrace our responsibility to promote sustainable space operations.”
- To date, Arianespace has launched 322 OneWeb satellites with ten Soyuz launches. Arianespace will perform nine more Soyuz launches for OneWeb through 2021 and 2022. These launches will enable OneWeb to complete the deployment of its full global constellation (650 satellites) in low Earth orbit by year-end 2022.
- OneWeb’s mission is to create a global connectivity platform through a next-generation satellite constellation in Low Earth Orbit. The OneWeb constellation will deliver high-speed, low-latency connectivity to a wide range of customer sectors, including aviation, maritime, enterprise and government. Central to its purpose, OneWeb seeks to bring connectivity to the hardest to reach places, where fiber cannot reach, and thereby bridge the digital divide.
Figure 23: Arianespace lofted 34 satellites for OneWeb Sept. 14 in the launch services provider's ninth mission so far this year (image credit: Roscosmos, TsENKI)
• Launch 9: On 22 August 2021, at 3:13 a.m. local time at Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome (22:13 UTC on August 21), Soyuz Flight ST34 lifted-off with 34 OneWeb satellites onboard, bringing, after the successful deployment, the size of the OneWeb fleet in orbit to 288. Flight ST34 was the 59th Soyuz mission carried out by Arianespace and its Starsem affiliate. The mission lasted three hours and 45 minutes. The 34 satellites have been separated, during nine separation sequences, at an altitude of 450 km. It was also the third successful launch operated by Arianespace’s teams in less than one month. 70)
- The launch of the satellites was operated by Arianespace and its Euro-Russian affiliate Starsem under contract with Glavkosmos, a subsidiary of Roscosmos, the Russian space agency. Arianespace is responsible for the overall mission and flight-worthiness, with the support of Starsem for launch campaign activities including management of its own launch facilities at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. RKTs-Progress (the Samara Space Center) is responsible for the design, development, manufacture and integration of the Soyuz launch vehicle as well as for the 3-stage Soyuz flight. NPO Lavotchkin is responsible for the launch preparation operations and flight of the Fregat orbital vehicle.
Figure 24: Teams at the Baikonur Cosmodrome pose with the stack of 34 OneWeb Internet satellites set for launch on Thursday, 26 August (image credit: Arianespace)
• Launch 8: On 1 July 2021, at 12:48 UTC (09:48 p.m. local time at Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome), Soyuz Flight ST33 lifted-off with 36 new OneWeb satellites onboard, bringing after the successful deployment the size of the fleet in orbit to 254. Flight ST33 was the 58th Soyuz mission carried out by Arianespace and its Starsem affiliate. 71) 72)
- “This new launch was very special, marking the completion of OneWeb’s ‘Five to 50’ ambition to bring into orbit the satellites required to enable connectivity services to the 50th parallel and above by years end which includes Canada, U.K., Northern Europe, Alaska and Arctic regions,” said Stéphane Israël, Chief Executive Officer of Arianespace and Starsem. “Congratulations to all the teams who made this eighth launch dedicated to OneWeb’s satellites a success!”
- Arianespace has launched 254 OneWeb satellites through eight Soyuz launches to date. Arianespace will perform 11 more Soyuz launches for OneWeb through 2021 and 2022. These launches will enable OneWeb to complete the deployment of its full global constellation of low Earth orbit satellites before the end of 2022.
- OneWeb’s mission is to create a global connectivity platform through a next-generation satellite constellation in low Earth orbit. The OneWeb constellation will deliver high-speed, low-latency connectivity to a wide range of customer sectors, including aviation, maritime, enterprise and governments. Central to its purpose, OneWeb seeks to bring connectivity to the hardest to reach places, where fiber cannot reach, and thereby bridge the digital divide.
- The satellite prime contractor is OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture of OneWeb and Airbus Defence and Space. The satellites were produced in Florida, USA in its leading-edge satellite manufacturing facilities that can build up to two satellites per day on a series production line dedicated to spacecraft assembly, integration, and testing.
- According to SpaceX, OneWeb has confirmed signal acquisition with each satellite after separating from their Soyuz 2.1b rocket, which launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia. 73)
- It will take about a month for the satellites to raise themselves from a near-polar orbit at an altitude of 450 kilometers to 1,200 kilometers, where they will then beam connectivity back to Earth.
- They will complete OneWeb’s interim goal of expanding its footprint to the 50th parallel and above — covering Canada, U.K., Northern Europe, Alaska and Arctic regions, ahead of partial commercial services before the end of this year.
Figure 25: Arianespace's eighth launch for OneWeb expands its constellation to 254 satellites (image credit: Roscosmos, Space Center Vostochny, TsENKI)
- The venture aims to launch four or five more batches of satellites in 2021 that will focus on filling out the Earth’s southernmost regions, according to Chris McLaughlin, OneWeb’s chief of government, regulation and engagement.
- McLaughlin said 10 more launches are needed to provide global services with the constellation, which recently secured the $2.4 billion it needs for deploying 648 satellites.
- “The next phase is to bring the latitude down to the 20 degree mark in the north and also bring the south pole into play and up to 20 degrees in the south,” he told SpaceNews in an interview.
- “Then there’ll be a belt in the middle of the Earth, which will be filled in during the course of next year.”
- McLaughlin underlined the importance of Australia and New Zealand to the U.K.-headquartered company as countries in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, which also includes the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
• Launch 7: On 28 May 2021, OneWeb confirmed the next successful launch of 36 satellites by Arianespace from the Vostochny Cosmodrome. This launch brings OneWeb a step closer to completing its ‘Five to 50’ ambition and the start of commercial service by the end of the year. 74) 75)
- Liftoff of the Soyuz Flight ST32 (Soyuz-2.1b / Fregat) flight occurred on 28 May at 17: 38 UTC (corresponding to 02:38 a.m. on 29 May local time at Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome). OneWeb’s satellites separated from the rocket and were dispensed in nine batches over a period of 3 hours 52 minutes with signal acquisition on all 36 satellites confirmed.
- This latest successful launch brings OneWeb’s total in-orbit constellation to 218 satellites. These will form part of OneWeb’s 648 LEO satellite fleet that will deliver high-speed, low-latency global connectivity. There is now only one launch to go until the company has the satellites required to enable its connectivity solution to reach all regions north of 50 degrees latitude by June 2021.
- OneWeb’s satellites are built by OneWeb Satellites, a OneWeb and Airbus joint venture facility on Merritt Island, Florida that can produce two satellites a day with an innovative production-line process. Thanks to this advanced manufacturing capability, OneWeb is able to rapidly and reliably build its first-generation fleet for completion of delivery into orbit by mid-2022. With this launch, our Florida team can be proud of the 218 satellites it has built and orbited to date.
- This launch represents the fourth in a five-launch program to fulfil the ‘Five to 50’ service, enabling OneWeb to offer connectivity across the United Kingdom, Alaska, Northern Europe, Greenland, the Arctic Seas and Canada. This service is expected to be switched on before the end of the year and OneWeb intends to make global service available in 2022.
• Launch 6: On 25 April 2021 (22:14 UTC, corresponding to 7:14 on 26 April 2021 local time at Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome). OneWeb’s sixth launch overall places 36 new constellation satellites into orbit. Arianespace has resumed the deployment of this client’s satellite network, which now comprises 182 satellites in low Earth orbit. 76)
- Soyuz Flight ST31 (Soyuz-2.1b / Fregat) orbited 36 new OneWeb satellites – bringing the size of the fleet in orbit to 182. Flight ST31 was the 56th Soyuz mission carried out by Arianespace and its Starsem affiliate.
- “Congratulations to all the teams who made this latest mission from the Vostochny Cosmodrome a success. This launch again confirms Arianespace’s ability to deploy the OneWeb constellation through the use of three different Soyuz launch sites – in French Guiana, Kazakhstan and Russia,” said Stéphane Israël, Chief Executive Officer of Arianespace. “I want to sincerely thank OneWeb for its trust. I am delighted that our company has contributed – for the sixth time – to this client’s ultimate ambition of providing Internet access to everyone, anywhere, at any time.”
- The satellite prime contractor is OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture of OneWeb and Airbus Defence and Space. The satellites were produced in Florida, USA in its leading-edge satellite manufacturing facilities that can build up to two satellites per day on a series production line dedicated to spacecraft assembly, integration, and testing.
Figure 26: A still taken from OneWeb's live feed March 25, showing a successful lift-off of a Soyuz rocket carrying another batch of broadband satellites (image credit: OneWeb) 77)
- The satellites were deployed into a near-polar orbit at an altitude of 450 km. The satellites will raise themselves to an operational orbit at an altitude of 1,200 km, following nine separation sequences over a period of about four hours from lift-off.
- One of the satellites from OneWeb’s previous batch of 36, which Arianespace launched March 25, allegedly could have come too close to a Starlink broadband spacecraft operated by SpaceX while making a similar journey.
- OneWeb-0178’s course was adjusted after projected to come close to the Starlink-1546 satellite launched in September 2020, although the exact circumstances around the issue are unclear.
- Arianespace’s latest launch for OneWeb pushes the broadband startup closer to an interim goal to expand coverage to north of 50 degrees latitude by June.
- That coverage goal, which requires launching two more batches of 36 satellites, would enable OneWeb to provide services across the entire United Kingdom before the end of this year — an important milestone for a company recently sold to the British government and Indian telecom company Bharti Global.
- It would also enable OneWeb to cover Alaska, Northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland, the Arctic Seas and Canada.
- OneWeb ultimately plans a 650-strong constellation to deliver global high-speed, low-latency broadband services to enterprise, government, maritime and aviation customers from 2022.
- Today’s launch, Flight ST30, was the 55th Soyuz mission carried out by Arianespace and its Starsem affiliate. Performed on Thursday, March 25 at precisely 11:47 a.m. local time at Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome (02:47 a.m. UTC), Flight ST30 orbited 36 new OneWeb satellites – bringing the size of the fleet in orbit to 146.
- “Congratulations to all the teams who made this latest mission from the Vostochny Cosmodrome a success. This launch confirms Arianespace’s ability to deploy the OneWeb constellation through the use of three different Soyuz launch sites – in French Guiana, Kazakhstan and Russia,” said Stéphane Israël, Chief Executive Officer of Arianespace. “I want to sincerely thank OneWeb for its trust. I am delighted that our company has contributed – for the fifth time – to this client’s ultimate ambition of providing Internet access to everyone, anywhere, at any time.”
Figure 27: Flight ST30: Soyuz lifts off from Vostochny Cosmodrome with its payload of 36 OneWeb satellites on 25 March 2021 at 02:47 UTC (image credit: Arianespace)
- Arianespace has launched 146 OneWeb satellites to date. Soyuz successfully orbited the initial six from French Guiana during February 2019. In February and March 2020, Arianespace and its Starsem affiliate successfully launched 68 OneWeb satellites from Baikonur Cosmodrome, as well as an additional batch of 36 satellites from the Vostochny Cosmodrome during December 2020.
- Pursuant to an amended launch contract with OneWeb, Arianespace will perform 14 more Soyuz launches through 2021 and 2022. These launches will enable OneWeb to complete the deployment of its full global constellation of low Earth orbit satellites by the end of 2022.
- OneWeb’s mission is to bring internet everywhere to everyone, by creating a global connectivity platform through a next-generation satellite constellation in low Earth orbit. The OneWeb constellation will deliver high-speed, low-latency connectivity to a wide range of customer sectors, including aviation, maritime, backhaul services, and for governments, emergency response services and more. Central to its purpose, OneWeb seeks to bring connectivity to every place where fiber cannot reach, and thereby bridge the digital divide.
- The satellite prime contractor is OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture of OneWeb and Airbus Defence and Space. The satellites were produced in Florida, USA in its leading-edge satellite manufacturing facilities that can build up to two satellites per day on a series production line dedicated to spacecraft assembly, integration, and testing.
Launch 4: OneWeb resumed deployment of its broadband satellite constellation with a launch of 36 OneWeb satellites on 18 December 2020 at 12:26 UTC, the first since the company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. 80) 81)
A Soyuz-2.1b rocket lifted off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in eastern Russia. The launch of Flight ST29 was the 53rd Soyuz mission carried out by Arianespace and its Starsem affiliate, marking a milestone as their first from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia. The rocket’s Fregat upper stage released the 36 satellites in nine sets of four satellites each, maneuvering between deployments, completing the process nearly four hours after liftoff.
The Fregat deployed the satellites in orbits at an altitude of 450 kilometers. The spacecraft, built by the Airbus-OneWeb joint venture OneWeb Satellites, will use their onboard propulsion to move into their final orbits at an altitude of 1,200 kilometers. They will join 76 satellites previously launched on three previous Soyuz flights. The size of the OneWeb fleet is now 110.
Figure 28: A Soyuz rocket carrying 36 OneWeb satellites lifts off Dec. 18 from the Vostochny Cosmodrome, the first OneWeb launch since the company emerged from bankruptcy (image credit: Arianespace)
London-based OneWeb said ground teams established contact with the 36 spacecraft, verifying the satellites were alive after launch. “We’ve confirmed signal acquisition for all 36 satellites,” OneWeb tweeted. “We’re grateful to all our team and partners for making today a success.”
Launch 3: On 21 March 2020 (17:06:58 UTC), a Soyuz rocket and Fregat upper stage lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, delivering 34 more satellites to orbit for OneWeb’s space-based Internet network in the company’s second launch this year. 82) 83)
After shedding four kerosene-fueled first stage boosters, a core stage and payload shroud, the Soyuz third stage accelerated to near orbital velocity with the mission’s Fregat upper stage. The Fregat deployed from the Soyuz third stage and fired two times in a little more than an hour to inject the 34 OneWeb satellites into a near-circular polar orbit with an average altitude of around 450 km.
The Russian-made Fregat carried a multi-payload dispenser produced by RUAG Space in Sweden, which released the 34 satellites in groups of two or four. The final satellites separated nearly four hours after liftoff, and confirmation of the spacecraft separation events was relayed from the Fregat stage to ground stations intermittently — as planned — as the rocket passed overhead.
Arianespace, which is managing the launch services for OneWeb, confirmed all 34 satellites had separated from the rocket. It was the fourth launch of the year for Arianespace, and likely the last in the coming weeks, after officials suspended launch operations at the company’s primary operating base in French Guiana due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The successful launch Saturday gives OneWeb a constellation of 74 satellites, including spacecraft placed in orbit on two previous Soyuz/Fregat missions in February 2019 and on Feb. 6 of this year.
Fourteen of the additional OneWeb launches are expected to use Soyuz rockets later this year and next year from Baikonur, Vostochny and French Guiana. And OneWeb has agreed to launch at least 30 satellites on the inaugural flight of the next-generation European Ariane 6 rocket from French Guiana at the end of 2020.
Launch 2: A Russian Soyuz launcher fired into orbit from the remote steppe of Kazakhstan Thursday with 34 satellites built on Florida’s Space Coast, commencing a sequence of launches to deploy a network of nearly 650 spacecraft for a global broadband network owned by OneWeb. 84) 85)
The launch Thursday (6 February 2020) was the first of up to 10 OneWeb missions this year, each carrying from 32 to 36 OneWeb satellites into orbit from spaceports in Kazakhstan, Russia and French Guiana. By next year, when OneWeb aims to have at least 648 satellites in orbit, the company plans to begin providing global Internet service.
Limited service could begin before the end of this year, according to OneWeb.
The 15-story Soyuz-2.1b rocket climbed away from the Site 31 launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 2142:41 GMT on 6 February 2020 and shot through an overcast cloud layer in the predawn skies over Kazakhstan, where liftoff occurred at 2:42 a.m. local time Friday (7 February).
Figure 29: A Soyuz-2.1b rocket lifts off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with 34 OneWeb broadband satellites on-board (image credit: Roscosmos)
The main engine of the Fregat upper stage ignited two times to place the 34 OneWeb satellites into a targeted polar orbit roughly 450 km above Earth, with an inclination of 87.4º to the equator. — From there, each satellite will use onboard electric propulsion to climb to their 1,200 km operational orbit.
Then began a series of deployments to release the 34 OneWeb satellites from a composite dispenser, or connecting interface, made by RUAG Space in Sweden.
First, two of the 147.5 kg satellites separated from the top of the cluster. The remaining 32 spacecraft separated in groups of four at intervals of approximately 20 minutes, with maneuvers by the Fregat’s smaller attitude control thrusters in between to ensure the satellites did not collide.
The satellite separation events largely occurred when the Fregat was outside the range of ground tracking stations. Officials from OneWeb and Arianespace — which arranged Thursday’s launch under contract to OneWeb — updated the status of the deployment sequence as they received data from the Fregat upper stage.
The last group of OneWeb satellites flew off the Fregat’s dispenser around 3 hours, 45 minutes into the mission. About an hour later, officials received telemetry data confirming the deployment of all 34 satellites.
Within around 10 hours of launch, ground teams at OneWeb’s satellite operations center received signals from 30 of the 34 satellites. Officials expected to hear from the other four satellites Friday.
Figure 30: A deployed OneWeb satellite in orbit (image credit: OneWeb)
Table 3: OneWeb satellites 86)
The workhorse medium-lift Soyuz vehicle delivered its payload during a flight lasting 1 hour and 22 minutes. Total payload lift performance was estimated at 1,945.2 kg. By operating this maiden flight, the first of 21 launches contracted by OneWeb in 2015, Arianespace contributes to the fulfilment of its customer's ultimate ambition: providing Internet access to everyone, everywhere.
Arianespace CEO Stéphane Israël congratulated OneWeb in his post-launch comments from the Spaceport and underscored the importance of today’s Soyuz success for both companies: “This initial mission makes our ambitious partnership – built around the launch of more than 600 OneWeb satellites – a reality.”
The initial constellation will be compromised of approximately 650 satellites and will scale to more than 900 spacecraft as it grows to meet demand around the world. OneWeb signed a contract with Arianespace in 2015 for a total of 21 Soyuz flights from three launch bases (the Spaceport in French Guiana; Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and Vostochny in Russia), to be performed through 2020.
Figure 31: An on-time lift-off for the Soyuz rocket from its launch pad in Kourou, French Guiana (image credit: Arianespace)
Orbit: Near-polar LEO (Low Earth Orbit), altitude of 1200 km.
Figure 32: This is the day that OneWeb made history and began its campaign to build the largest satellite constellation. We watched in anticipation as the ArianeSpace Soyuz rocket took off on its journey with our first six satellites. We waited for the satellite separations and then for that all important signal acquisition. We got the result we wanted, and it was a successful launch mission – one of our best days yet (video credit: OneWeb, Published on 1March 2019)
Launch campaign: Largest commercial launch acquisition in history.
• 21 launches provided by Arianespace using Soyuz
- Baikonur and french Guiana launch sites
- 32 satellites per launch
- 3-4 week of launch cadence
• 39 launches provided by Virgin Galactic
- Air launched over the Pacific
- 1-2 satellites per launch.
Orbit of constellation: Operational altitude of 1200 km, inclination of 87.9º, 18 orbital planes of 36 satellites each.
1) Launch and deployment:
• 450-475 km insertion altitude. This altitude is above the ISS and below many high-value assets
• Soyuz launch in bulk (~30 per LV)
• Virgin Galactic fills in gaps (1-2 per LV)
2) Orbit raising maneuvers:
• Low-thrust Hall effect ion engine
• Spiral climb-out to 1200 km. This operational altitude is above high-density regions of space debris.
• Conjunctions managed by pausing thrust
• Operational altitude selected in part by low density of space objects
• Stationkeeping driven by payload requirements as well as management of plane crossings
• Initial extraction from operational constellation to 1100 km circular orbit
• Perigee lowered to under 250 km for rapid atmospheric reentry
• Disposal system is required to be the highest reliability function on the satellite
• Atmospheric reentry within five years of decommissioning.
LEO (Low Earth Orbit) debris environment:
The most congested region in LEO is between 760 km and 860 km as illustrated in Figure 33.
• There are about 17,500 objects cataloged by the US Space Surveillance Network
• In general, the tracking limit of space debris in LEO is ~10 cm in diameter
• Estimates of the untrackable population are given by flux models [e.g., NASA's ORDEM (Orbital Debris Engineering Model)].
Figure 34: One of OneWeb's first satellites, built in Toulouse, France by its Airbus joint venture OneWeb Satellites (image credit: OneWeb)
Figure 35: The payload fairing containing the OneWeb satellites, that will sit on top of the Soyuz rocket (image credit: Arianespace)