OneWeb Satellites took a key step towards delivering global connectivity via Low Earth Orbit (LEO) birds, with the inauguration of a factory which will slash the time and costs involved in satellite manufacture.
The company explained the use of mass-production techniques at the 105,500 square foot facility in the US enables it to produce two satellites per day at a significantly lower cost than traditional approaches, which can see manufacture take more than a year at a price stretching into tens of millions of dollars.
Accelerating output and lowering the costs are key elements in enabling OneWeb Satellites to launch the number of birds required to achieve its aim of delivering connectivity to underserved rural areas of the world. The company is preparing an initial fleet of 650 satellites, with the final tally due to hit 1,950.
In a statement, Adrian Steckel, CEO of OneWeb (which operates the satellite business in a joint venture with Airbus) said the factory will enable it to begin offering services “in some areas” in 2020, with full global coverage from 2021.
Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai was one of several government officials who attended an opening ceremony. In a speech he drew parallels to the impact Henry Ford had on motor car production, while hailing the regulator’s involvement in promoting satellite connectivity.
“Among other things, we’ve approved many proposals for LEO, non-geostationary satellite orbit constellations. Indeed, in June 2017, OneWeb’s constellation was the first to receive the FCC’s signoff.”
“We’re working hard to lay the groundwork for next-generation communications infrastructure that will connect Americans no matter where they live.”
By March, OneWeb Satellites had raised $3.4 billion in funding from companies including SoftBank and Qualcomm. Last week it announced tests of six satellites delivered data rates of more than 400Mb/s and less than 40 milliseconds latency in trials of full HD video streaming.Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back