OneWeb hailed the launch of its second payload in six weeks, as the company advanced plans to begin offering commercial broadband service via a constellation of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) birds later this year.
The company said it launched 34 satellites into orbit on 21 March from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, and successfully acquired signal from each a few hours later.
OneWeb noted the deployment is its second in six weeks and third in total, building on the launch of 34 satellites on 6 February and an initial batch of six test birds in late February 2019. A total of 74 birds are now in orbit.
It credited its ability to launch 68 satellites in less than two months to massive output from a satellite production facility in Florida, which opened in July 2019 as part of a joint venture with Airbus.
The company previously noted the factory is capable of producing two satellites per day at lower cost than traditional manufacturing locations.
OneWeb aims to launch an initial constellation of approximately 650 LEO birds, with plans to begin offering commercial service in the arctic region later this year. Ultimately, it plans to launch a total of 1,950 to offer global coverage sometime in 2021.
Adrian Steckel, OneWeb CEO, said in a statement the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic had exposed “urgent shortcomings in many organisations’ connectivity capabilities,” adding its network is “poised to fill in many of these critical gaps in the global communications infrastructure”.
In addition to serving industrial segments including aviation and maritime, OneWeb said it also aims to connect under-served rural communities to remote work, telemedicine and online learning opportunities.