Space-Based Internet the Focus of OneWeb Satellite Factory
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL—OneWeb officially opened a high-tech factory near the Kennedy Space Center Monday designed to produce two internet-delivery satellites per day. It's part of a plan to launch nearly 2,000 broadband-relay stations providing cable modem-class connectivity for schools, rural communities and other underserved populations around the world.The eventual constellation will also be available for use by the Pentagon and commercial customers, including aircraft and ships at sea.
The 105,500-square-foot production facility is located across the street from Blue Origin's sprawling rocket factory just outside NASA's Florida spaceport. OneWeb and the European aerospace giant Airbus jointly own a third company, OneWeb Satellites, that will build the new spacecraft. The European consortium Arianespace will launch the initial constellation.
Six OneWeb satellites were launched atop a Soyuz rocket from French Guiana earlier this year to test throughput and latency in a pilot project connecting schools in Alaska, Ecuador, Honduras, Rwanda, Nepal and Kyrgyzstan. By the end of the year, another Soyuz is expected to carry the first load of 32 operational satellites to orbit.
By placing multiple satellites in multiple orbital planes, users anywhere on Earth will be within line-of-sight and able to send and receive internet data. OneWeb plans to launch 650 satellites, most aboard Soyuz rockets, to provide an initial operating capability. But depending on demand, the company expects to expand the fleet to nearly 2,000 relay stations in the years ahead.