Tag Archives: OneWeb

Battle for communications spectrum between private companies

The competition heats up: One group of mobile broadband companies is fighting another group of satellite-based internet companies for control over the use of a part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

A coalition of 5G terrestrial mobile broadband companies led by Charlie Ergen’s Dish Network on June 8 asked U.S. regulators to strip future low-orbiting satellite Internet constellations of their priority access to 500 megahertz of Ku-band spectrum – spectrum coveted by prospective constellation operators including OneWeb LLC and SpaceX. SpaceX and satellite fleet operator Intelsat, a OneWeb investor and partner, immediately filed separate opposition papers to the FCC, arguing that nongeostationary-orbit (NGSO) constellations are very much alive.

In the middle is the FCC and our hapless and increasingly corrupt federal government. I sadly suspect the side that will win this battle will be the side that gives the most campaign money to the right politicians.

OneWeb satellite factory coming to Florida

The competition heats up: OneWeb officially announces its plan to build its satellite factory in Florida.

OneWeb Satellites LLC prepares to break ground on its new estimated $85 million high volume satellite manufacturing factory in Exploration Park, Florida. Announced during a ceremony with Florida Governor Rick Scott and OneWeb founder Greg Wyler, the factory near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is set to open in 2017, with delivery of initial satellites later that year or early the next. OneWeb Satellites is a joint venture between OneWeb, a satellite based internet provider, and Airbus Defence and Space, the world’s second largest space company.

I think this news report of the press conference notes the most important aspect of this satellite factory, its assembly-line approach:

Typically, communications satellites take four to five months to assemble, Brian Holz, chief executive of OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture of OneWeb and Europe’s Airbus Group’s Defense and Space said during an event near the future location of the factory. “We’re going to build one in an eight-hour shift,” he said. He did not give details but said the factory would be highly automated.

If all goes right, they should begin launch satellites in large numbers within two years, which will mean a lot of additional launch business for the smallsat rocket industry.

OneWeb to set up operations in Florida

The competition heats up: The head of OneWeb confirmed today that his company is going to establish its base of operations in Florida.

The founder of OneWeb, Greg Wyler, confirmed to the Orlando Sentinel that his company is moving to Kennedy Space Center. Wyler plans to announce more details Tuesday morning in a news conference with Gov. Rick Scott, who will explain $20 million in state incentive dollars for the company. “It’s pretty exciting to see that Florida will be the base for a new satellite network that will extend high-speed access to 54 percent of the globe,” Wyler said in a phone interview.

OneWeb already has $500 million in funding to launch the new satellites, designed to boost internet access globally. It also has contracts with Virgin Galactic and French company Arianespace for launches. The company plans to hire at least 250 people.

The important part of this story for Florida is that OneWeb will be building its satellites there. Whether any are ever launched from Florida will depend on Virgin Galactic ever getting off the ground. Otherwise, most of these satellites will launch from French Guiana.

OneWeb begins hiring in Florida

The competition heats up: The new satellite company OneWeb, with plans to launch a constellation of 900 satellites beginning next year, has begun hiring engineers for a manufacturing plant it intends to locate in Florida.

The article also notes the construction start of a new building that is suspected but not confirmed as the location of that manufacturing plant.

OneWeb’s existence is visible proof of my contention that if the launch business can lower the cost to orbit it will create new customers who can afford to buy the product. OneWeb is partly lowering the cost on its own by using small cubesat-like satellites, but it is also taking advantage of the renewed competition in the launch industry to get better deals on buying the rockets it needs to launch those satellites.

OneWeb awards major launch contracts

The competition heats up: OneWeb today announced it had raised a half billion dollars in investment capital, and has also awarded two major launch contracts, one to the Arianespace/Russian Soyuz partnership and the other to Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne.

The Soyuz gets 21 launches while LauncherOne gets 39. For Virgin Galactic this contract might save the company, as their effort to fly tourists on SpaceShipOne has badly stalled. The effort to build LauncherOne, however, seems to be gaining steam.

Virgin Galactic opens facility for developing LauncherOne

The competition heats up: Virgin Galactic announced today the establishment of a new facility to design and build the company’s LauncherOne rocket, aimed at putting into orbit very small cubesats at a very low price.

LauncherOne is an air-launch system for satellites weighing up to 225 kilograms. The system will use the same aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, as the company’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle, but replaces SpaceShipTwo with a two-stage launch vehicle using engines fueled by liquid oxygen and kerosene.

At the Federal Aviation Administration Commercial Space Transportation Conference Feb. 4, William Pomerantz, vice president of special projects for Virgin Galactic, said the company has already tested engines and other “core infrastructure” of LauncherOne. “We are a fairly vertically-integrated team,” he said. “We really do control a lot of the production in house.”

As the article notes, Virgin Galactic is investing in OneWeb, which hopes to launch a constellation of 650 cubesats to provide broadband communications worldwide. It is likely that a partnership between the two companies exists to put many of those cubesats into orbit with LauncherOne.

This announcement also suggests to me that Virgin Galactic is beginning to shift its gaze from suborbital space tourism to orbital launch services, and in doing so is looking for new ways to make its investment in WhiteKnightTwo pay off.