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.
• 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. 25)
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 5: 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. 26)
Figure 6: 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 7: 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. 27) 28)
- 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. 29) 30)
Figure 8: 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. 31)
- 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 9: 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. 32)
- “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.
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.
5) 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)
6) 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 10.
• 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 11: One of OneWeb's first satellites, built in Toulouse, France by its Airbus joint venture OneWeb Satellites (image credit: OneWeb)
Figure 12: The payload fairing containing the OneWeb satellites, that will sit on top of the Soyuz rocket (image credit: Arianespace)
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 13: 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 14: 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)
- To achieve this milestone, OneWeb’s satellites have been transmitting at the designated frequencies in the correct orbit for more than 90 days, enabling OneWeb to meet the requirements to secure spectrum bands over which it has priority rights under ITU rules and regulations. These rights will now be confirmed as the UK administration, which has filed our satellite system with the ITU, will complete the required Notification and Registration process of the company’s LEO network.
- By meeting the requirements of the ITU regulations, OneWeb is well on its way to securing spectrum rights to high priority Ku-band spectrum for service links, and Ka-band for its global gateways. It will now have access to over 6 GHz of spectrum that will enable it to deliver its high-speed, low latency connectivity.
- This achievement is the latest in a string of major milestones charting OneWeb’s progress toward commercial service and full global coverage by 2021, including the successful launch of its first six satellites in February, the opening of its state-of-the-art Florida manufacturing facility earlier this month, and proving its ability to deliver low latency, high-speed services through its recent full HD streaming tests.
- During the remainder of 2019, OneWeb will focus on commencing its monthly launch program of more than 30 satellites per month, building an initial constellation of 650 satellites on its way to 1,980 satellites. The first phase of the constellation will provide global coverage; and further additions to the network will be focused on adding capacity to meet growing customer demands.
- Sustainability is a core OneWeb’s commitment to bridge the digital divide. In June 2019, OneWeb reaffirmed its promise to leave no trace in space with its Responsible Space commitments based on the premise that Space is a shared natural resource, which if used responsibly, can help transform the way we live, work, and connect.
- Ruth Pritchard-Kelly, VP of Regulatory for OneWeb, said spectrum is a scarce resource and the ITU plays a vital role in the global management for access. The harsh reality for anyone trying to make a real impact on global connectivity is that no matter how good your network is, success is not possible without the correct spectrum. With the company's spectrum now in use, OneWeb has proved it can bring together all the elements required — in space, on the ground, and in between — to change the face of connectivity everywhere.
• July 16, 2019: OneWeb, whose mission is to enable internet access everywhere for everyone, is delighted to announce the successful test of its six satellites in Low Earth Orbit. All satellites delivered high-speed, low-latency services, with speed of more than 400 Mbit/s which enabled the fastest realtime video streaming in Full HD from Space. The tests, which took place in Seoul, South Korea, represent the most significant demonstration of the OneWeb constellation to date, proving its ability to provide superior broadband connectivity anywhere on the planet. 37)
- OneWeb’s satellites are performing well, enabling the company to continue its path forward towards a fully functioning global constellation in 2021 and delivering partial service beginning as early as 2020. OneWeb’s service will broaden and innovate the use cases of satellite connectivity and will represent an important step towards enabling quality access everywhere for everyone.
- OneWeb is aggressively moving forward on the implementation of its first phase of the network which will start with an initial 650 satellites and grow up to 1,980 satellites. This first phase of the constellation will provide global coverage; and further additions to the network will be focused on adding capacity to meet growing customer demands.
- The recent satellite tests were conducted in partnership with Intellian, the developer and manufacturer of OneWeb user terminals and SatixFy, developer and manufacturer of the 125 MHz SCPC test modem. The tests included: latency, speed, jitter, seamless handover between satellites and power control. During its test, OneWeb demonstrated:
a) Extremely low latency with an average of 32 milliseconds;
b) Seamless beam and satellite handovers;
c) Accurate antenna pointing and tracking;
e) Live streamed video at resolutions up to 1080p (Full HD); and
g) Test speed rates of more than 400 Mbit/s.
- From realtime gaming to Facetime, streaming HD movies to operating Google maps on the move to using cloud software, OneWeb’s service opens up a raft of new applications which are needed to meet the connectivity needs of today and tomorrow. These initial tests are only the beginning and OneWeb will continue testing as it prepares for its next launch later this year.
- “Our tests prove that OneWeb will enable very high speed and low latency connectivity everywhere and we are on schedule to offer the service globally in 24 months. OneWeb is going to transform the way we think about connectivity and how we use it.” said Adrian Steckel, CEO of OneWeb.
- “This demonstration in Seoul shows the strength that OneWeb and Intellian have together to provide global coverage. The technology in the Intellian user terminals connecting with OneWeb satellites shows our capabilities for now and for the future. We will succeed on this mission with OneWeb,” said Eric Sung, CEO of Intellian.
About Intellian Technologies, Inc.
Intellian is the global leader of mobile satellite communication systems for maritime, government, military and NGSO (Non-Geostationary-Satellite Orbit) sectors. Founded in 2004, Intellian is leading the way in driving innovation in the satellite communications market. The industry’s top-ranking companies choose Intellian’s maritime satellite antenna systems to deliver connectivity when it matters most. Intellian operates in 12 offices worldwide, including global logistics centers in Asia, the Americas, and Europe, and is supported by a network of more than 550 partners across the globe.
• May 7, 2019: OneWeb has announced a partnership with Intellian Technologies Inc., a global communications company with HQs in Seoul Korea, to build user terminals designed specifically for remote enterprise networks, cellular backhaul expansion and remote connectivity needs. 38) 39)
- The user terminals will be the units provided to customers to enable the high-speed, low latency service that our global satellite constellation will deliver. These user terminals will be perfect for a range of use cases including connecting businesses in rural areas, schools, hospitals, farms and community centers.
- This partnership represents a significant step-forward in the development of OneWeb’s system following the launch of its first satellites and its first customer announcements in February 2019. With six satellites now on-orbit and a range of antennas now in place, OneWeb is ready to advance the development of its portfolio of user terminals, ranging from compact flat panels to highly-efficient dual parabolics. All our user terminals will be designed to serve a range of customer needs, market verticals and use cases.
- With many remote and unconnected areas around the world still lacking access to broadband, these user terminals will help to close to gaps and connect remote enterprises, as well as, expand cellular backhaul capacity which is essential for extending connectivity. The terminals will utilize dual-parabolic antennas to deliver cost-effective and efficient throughput making high-speed and low-latency services available in hard-to-reach areas and helping bridge the digital divide. OneWeb expects these terminals to be available for Commercial use in 2020.
- Adrian Steckel, CEO of OneWeb, said this is an exciting moment for OneWeb as the company expands and develops the firm's own user terminals with an extremely important partner. The company's user terminals will always be designed with customer needs in-mind, ensuring a service is delivered they can trust.
- Eric Sung, CEO of Intellian, noted that the company is thrilled that the firm's design and manufacturing capabilities will help connect people in remote locations to this new satellite ecosystem.
• March 18, 2019: OneWeb announced it has secured its largest fundraising round to date with the successful raise of $1.25 billion in new capital. This brings the total funds raised to $3.4 billion. This round was led by SoftBank Group Corp., Grupo Salinas, Qualcomm Technologies Inc., and the Government of Rwanda. 40)
- The new funds, following the successful first launch of OneWeb’s satellites, enable the company to accelerate the development of the first truly global communications network by 2021. OneWeb’s system will deliver high speed, low latency, seamless broadband access, everywhere on Earth.
- "This latest funding round, our largest to date, makes OneWeb’s service inevitable and is a vote of confidence from our core investor base in our business model and the OneWeb value proposition," said Adrian Steckel, CEO of OneWeb. "With the recent successful launch of our first six satellites, near-completion of our innovative satellite manufacturing facility with our partner Airbus, progress towards fully securing our ITU priority spectrum position, and the signing of our first customer contracts, OneWeb is moving from the planning and development stage to deployment of our full constellation. Our success is made possible thanks to the backing of our investors and the cooperation of our world class commercial partners including Arianespace, Airbus, Qualcomm Technologies Inc., Virgin, and Hughes.”
- OneWeb’s satellites, produced through its joint venture with Airbus doing business as “OneWeb Satellites”, will ramp-up production this spring at its new, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Exploration Park, Florida. Following the company’s successful launch of satellites on 27 February, OneWeb will embark on the largest satellite launch campaign in history. Starting in Q4, OneWeb will begin monthly launches of more than 30 satellites at a time, creating an initial constellation of 650 satellites to enable full global coverage. After this first phase, OneWeb will add more satellites to its constellation to meet growing demands.
- On the additional investment, Marcelo Claure, COO of SoftBank Group Corp. and CEO of SoftBank Group International said: “OneWeb has extended its first-mover advantage and is on track to become the world’s largest and first truly global communications network. At SoftBank, our aim is to invest in transformative companies at the leading edge of technology disruption. OneWeb’s potential is undeniable as the growth in data from 5G, IoT, autonomous driving and other new technologies drives demand for capacity above and beyond the limits of the existing infrastructure.”
- OneWeb’s priority rights to a large block of globally harmonized spectrum and its Low Earth Orbit (LEO) constellation design will enable a unique combination of high speed, low latency, and truly global service. OneWeb’s network will go beyond the limits of existing infrastructure, enabling connectivity for rural communities and schools as well as for business and industries that demand seamless global connectivity solutions such as Aviation, Maritime, Backhaul, and Land Mobility. OneWeb’s customers will be able to develop and support a wide range of emerging applications that require real-time communication and collaboration.
- “I have worked for over 20 years to bring network access to people throughout Mexico and Latin America and have seen first-hand the power of connectivity to change and improve lives. OneWeb will have the ability to reach places that have previously been impossible to connect. We are proud to be supporting Adrian and the entire OneWeb team and are looking forward to creating new opportunities for people everywhere,” said Ricardo Salinas, Founder and Chairman of Grupo Salinas.
- Greg Wyler, Chairman and Founder of OneWeb, added “We are committed to bridging the digital divide, and this funding helps ensure our globally shared dream will soon become a reality. We look forward to continuing our work with the many supportive and forward-looking Governments, ISPs(Internet Service Providers), and Telecom Operators to help them broaden the reach of connectivity to connect people everywhere.”
• March 5, 2019: The first six satellites of OneWeb's constellation were successfully launched on 27 February on a Soyuz rocket from the Kourou spaceport. These 6 satellites form part of a constellation to be made up initially by 648 low earth orbit (LEO) satellites, possibly building up to over 900 as needed to meet clients' growing needs. 41)
- OneWeb's constellation, the biggest broadband satellite system ever developed, will provide connectivity for billions of users around the whole world, taking communications networks to areas that would otherwise be unconnected. The system can give global 3G, LTE, 5G and Wifi access at affordable prices to users right around the world.
- This launch marks the transition from successful proof-of-concept to the commercialization of OneWeb "for everyone, everywhere", all in the interests of bridging the so-called digital divide. OneWeb has now struck out on the deployment of the biggest satellite constellation ever produced; from the end of this year it will regularly be launching about 30 satellites a month.
- To set an eyecatching example, OneWeb has undertaken to connect up 6 schools in formerly unconnected regions of the world: Alaska, Nepal, Honduras, Ecuador, Rwanda and Kyrgyzstan.
- GMV, undisputed number one in the supply of control centers for satellites of all types, will be helping to achieve all the above goals.
- In 2016 GMV won the contract for developing the command and control (C2) center of the whole constellation, thus taking on a great challenge.
- After weighing up diverse C2 platforms, OneWeb opted for GMV's product line, capable of meeting OneWeb's specific and complex needs while sticking to a tight development schedule. GMV's C2 system has been installed in the constellation's UK and USA operation centers and will be providing access to the command process and telemetry, automation of contacts between the satellites and ground antenna, as well as keeping track of the overall state of the constellation.
- GMV's command and control center includes different solutions from its inhouse real-time product line, such as hifly, for satellite monitoring and control; flyplan, for automation of contacts, and fleetDashboard, developed in collaboration with OneWeb's operations team, which provides global knowledge on the state of the constellation.
• February 27, 2019: Flight VS21 - Arianespace’s second launch of the year - took place on Wednesday, 27 February at 6:37 p.m., (Kourou time) from the Guiana Space Center (CSG), Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana (South America). 42)
- 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.
- The maiden mission for OneWeb brought the number of constellation satellites orbited by Arianespace to 109, which demonstrates a remarkable ability to meet the needs of this market segment with its current and future family of launchers.
- Stéphane Israël, Arianespace Chief Executive Officer, said: “By deploying the OneWeb constellation, Arianespace also accomplishes its mission: ‘Using space for a better life on Earth’ when participating in the build-up of a global communications network that will bridge the digital divide. The success of this first flight marks the go-ahead of 20 more Soyuz launches contracted by OneWeb in 2015, representing more than 600 satellites to be orbited in less than two years – and we take great pride in working toward such an objective!”
Ground Network System:
In November 2017, Hughes Network Systems LLC signed a contract with OneWeb for the production of a ground network system, supporting OneWeb’s constellation of LEO satellites. The contract includes production of the gateway sites each with multiple tracking satellite access points to support operation and hand-off of high-speed user traffic between satellites. 43) 44)
“Designing a ground system capable of supporting hundreds of LEOs with seamless handoff of broadband traffic between satellites presented a significant challenge,” said John Corrigan, senior vice president of Engineering for Hughes. “But our team was up to the task, and we are proud to be partnering with OneWeb on realizing this revolutionary satellite communications system to close the global digital divide.”
Joint development of the ground network system began approximately two years ago. The current agreement includes equipment to support multiple satellite access points in gateway locations around the world, each including a custom switching complex, outdoor modems, and power amplifiers. Shipments are expected to start in mid-2018.
Figure 15: OneWeb System Overview (image credit: The Aerospace Corporation, OneWeb)
Figure 16: Ground segment architecture (image credit: The Aerospace Corporation, OneWeb)
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The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: ”Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors” (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (email@example.com).