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 20, 2020, OneWeb’s bankruptcy court permitted the British and Indian joint-venture, (called ‘BidCo 100’) to pay $50.7 million into OneWeb in order to start re-building its initial constellation of some 648 satellites. OneWeb is authorized by the FCC to launch 720 craft out of a potential 1,980 mega-constellation. OneWeb also has an application with the FCC to dramatically expand the number of satellites up to 48,000. 25)
Figure 5: OneWeb, now in the process of being acquired by the British government and Indian telco giant Bharti Global, is going ahead with building satellites ahead of any decision to incorporate the UK’s plans for a rival global positioning system to rival Europe’s Galileo (image credit: OneWeb)
- OneWeb’s bankruptcy court permitted the British and Indian joint-venture, (called ‘BidCo 100’) to pay $50.7 million into OneWeb in order to start re-building its initial constellation of some 648 satellites. OneWeb is authorized by the FCC to launch 720 craft out of a potential 1,980 mega-constellation. OneWeb also has an application with the FCC to dramatically expand the number of satellites up to 48,000.
- OneWeb is under an ITU (International Telecommunication Union) timetable to get its satellites into orbit, not the least of which is because the ITU requires a large proportion of the fleet to be in orbit. OneWeb told the FCC that it would be providing service to Alaska by 2019 and rapidly rolling out its service to the rest of the US.
- OneWeb is obliged by the ITU to launch 360 satellites by June 2023 and 720 by June 2026. Failure to keep to this timetable will risk the core OneWeb spectrum licenses. The FCC has endorsed this timetable.
- Currently, OneWeb has just 74 satellites on-orbit and the agreement with the incoming new owners UK/Bharti will honor most of the existing supply and launch contracts. Arianespace, for example, was under contract to launch 21 of its Soyuz rockets plus 3 launches of the new Ariane-6 rocket (itself delayed until later in 2021). Each Soyuz would carry 34 satellites.
- However, Arianespace also wants more cash. The old contract called for a total of $273.8 million for the launches. Arianespace now says that the original sum, of course, does not include interest owed on the old contract and is now seeking $286 million.
- Add to these complications the inevitable bankruptcy process and it is highly unlikely that the current fleet of satellites under production will be further delayed in order for global positioning modifications to take place.
- Prior to the bankruptcy, OneWeb was producing satellites at around two per day. At 34 satellites per launch – and an obliged 300 craft still to be launched to meet the ITU rules – ten launches will see the task completed; however, the demands are considerable. Waiting for the bankruptcy to be fully concluded, and making positioning modifications, makes this timetable much tighter.
- Last week, Airbus confirmed that it was committed to its joint-venture with OneWeb in Florida and would continue operating the joint venture’s Florida factory to turn out OneWeb’s satellites. The joint venture would also continue to seek other – non-OneWeb – satellite orders.
- There are also reports that the UK is not insisting on early adoption of its satellite positioning plans. The UK’s science, research and innovation minister Amanda Solloway said that she believes ‘new’ OneWeb would be profitable. “This investment is likely to make an economic return, with due diligence showing a strong commercial basis for investment. The deal contributes to the government’s plan to join the first rank of space nations, and signals the government’s ambition for the UK to be a pioneer in the research, development, manufacturing, and exploitation of novel satellite technologies enabling enhanced broadband through the ownership of a fleet of Low Earth Orbit satellites.”
• July 3, 2020: Government leads a successful bid to acquire OneWeb which develops cutting-edge satellite technology in the UK and in the US. 26)
a) Government-led consortium’s ownership of OneWeb strengthens UK’s place on the world stage
b) government will provide $500 million to deliver first UK sovereign space capability, alongside $500 million from Bharti Global (see Note )
c) successful bid puts UK at the cutting-edge of the latest advances in space technology.
- The government has today (3 July) led a successful bid to acquire OneWeb, which develops cutting-edge satellite technology in the UK and in the US.
- The move signals the government’s ambition for the UK to be a pioneer in the research, development, manufacturing, and exploitation of novel satellite technologies through the ownership of a fleet of Low Earth orbit satellites.
- Business Secretary Alok Sharma confirmed that the government will invest $500 million and take a significant equity share in OneWeb. This is alongside Bharti Global Ltd, which is part of a group that controls the third largest mobile operator in the world. Bharti will provide the company commercial and operational leadership, and bring OneWeb a revenue base to contribute towards its future success.
- The deal will enable the company to complete construction of a global satellite constellation that will provide enhanced broadband and other services to countries around the world.
- The deal also offers the UK strategic opportunities across a wide range of other applications, working with our international allies.
- With a sovereign global satellite system, the UK will further develop its advanced manufacturing base, making the most of its highly skilled workforce as the hardware is further developed and equipment and services are deployed to make the most of this unique capability.
- OneWeb will also contribute to the government’s plan to join the first rank of space nations, along with our commitment to making the UK a world leader in science, research and development.
- The deal is subject to US court approval and regulatory clearances and is expected to close before the end of the year.
- It follows the formation of the UK’s first-ever National Space Council, chaired by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to consider how space policy can enhance the country’s prosperity and place in the world, as well as our wider national security interests.
Note : Bharti, through Bharti Airtel, is the third largest mobile operator in the world, with over 425 million customers. Bharti Airtel has its own extensive mobile broadband networks and enterprise business, which will act as the testing ground for all OneWeb products, services, and applications. Bharti Airtel also operates India’s leading satellite broadcasting service through Airtel Digital TV to over 16 million households. 27)
• March 27, 2020: OneWeb (the Company), the global communications company with a mission to bring connectivity to everyone everywhere, announced today that the Company and certain of its controlled affiliates have voluntarily filed for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. The Company intends to use these proceedings to pursue a sale of its business in order to maximize the value of the company. 28)
- To date, the Company has successfully launched 74 satellites as part of its constellation, secured valuable global spectrum, begun development on a range of user terminals for a variety of customer markets, has half of its 44 ground stations completed or in development, and performed successful demonstrations of its system with broadband speeds in excess of 400 Mbit/s and latency of 32 ms. In addition, OneWeb’s commercial team has seen significant early global demand for OneWeb’s high-speed, low-latency connectivity services from governments and leaders in the automotive, maritime, enterprise, and aviation industries.
- This demand for connectivity delivered from low Earth orbiting satellite constellations underscores the tremendous need for high-quality connectivity, especially for rural and under-connected communities worldwide. The OneWeb ecosystem has transformed the satellite industry introducing innovative new technologies and operational advances. These developments have fundamentally changed the economics of satellite communications, opening up new markets such as cellular backhaul and connectivity on the move.
- Since the beginning of the year, OneWeb had been engaged in advanced negotiations regarding investment that would fully fund the Company through its deployment and commercial launch. While the Company was close to obtaining financing, the process did not progress because of the financial impact and market turbulence related to the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease-19).
- Today, the Company has filed a number of customary motions with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court seeking authorization to support its ongoing operations during the Chapter 11 process, including approval for the consensual use of its existing cash collateral to continue to fund the business. In addition, OneWeb is actively negotiating debtor-in-possession financing, which, if acquired and approved by the Bankruptcy Court, will ensure OneWeb is able to fund additional financial commitments as it conducts a sale process under Section 363 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Together, these actions will allow OneWeb to meet post-petition obligations to its remaining employees and certain vendors in the ordinary course.
- Adrian Steckel, Chief Executive Officer of OneWeb, stated, “OneWeb has been building a truly global communications network to provide high-speed low latency broadband everywhere. Our current situation is a consequence of the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis. We remain convinced of the social and economic value of our mission to connect everyone everywhere. Today is a difficult day for us at OneWeb. So many people have dedicated so much energy, effort, and passion to this company and our mission. Our hope is that this process will allow us to carve a path forward that leads to the completion of our mission, building on the years of effort and the billions of invested capital. It is with a very heavy heart that we have been forced to reduce our workforce and enter the Chapter 11 process while the Company’s remaining employees are focused on responsibly managing our nascent constellation and working with the Court and investors.”
• March 9, 2020: Hughes Network Systems, LLC (HUGHES), the global leader in broadband satellite networks and services, and OneWeb, the global communications company with a mission to bring connectivity to everyone everywhere, today announced that Hughes has become a worldwide distribution partner for OneWeb. 29)
- OneWeb's constellation of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites will expand Hughes service offerings and ensure its customers can access low-latency, high-speed connectivity, wherever they are. Applications will include enterprise and government networking, cellular backhaul and community Wi-Fi hotspots.
- "We are entering a new era of global connectivity demand that can only be fulfilled by a mix of data transport services, including terrestrial, geostationary and Low Earth Orbit satellites," said Pradman Kaul, president, Hughes. "OneWeb complements our service portfolio with a truly global coverage, low-latency option that will enable our customers to meet their end users' needs for connectivity everywhere."
- The new agreement expands an already successful relationship between the two companies. Hughes is an investor, through its parent company EchoStar, and an ecosystem partner to OneWeb, helping to develop essential ground network technology for OneWeb's LEO system.
- OneWeb works with carefully selected distribution partners in each of its core markets, providing new business and expansion opportunities through the low latency, global, high throughput attributes of OneWeb's network.
- "Connectivity is only truly valuable when it delivers the user experience that customers need, and in today's fast-moving digital economy, businesses and civil government organizations need high quality, continuous internet access wherever they are," said Adrian Steckel, chief executive officer, OneWeb. "I'm delighted that Hughes is joining OneWeb on our mission to deliver this vision. Hughes is already an important investor and an invaluable technology partner, and I look forward to working together to bring OneWeb's pioneering technology to markets around the world."
- OneWeb is building its initial constellation of 650 LEO satellites. By late 2021, OneWeb will be offering low latency globally, with the same capacity over the water, in the air, in previously unconnectable places, and everywhere else.
- Service testing on the satellites already in orbit is underway, using gateways that Hughes is building for the network. Results are positive, including seamless satellite and beam handovers, high speeds and low latency.
- The gateways feature multiple tracking antennas to support operation and handoff of high-speed user traffic to and from the LEO satellites, and can handle up to 10,000 terminal hand-offs per second – a technological and engineering breakthrough. Every OneWeb terminal, whether for fixed or mobile services, will incorporate a core module, including modem, developed and manufactured by Hughes.
• February 7, 2020: As a key OneWeb supplier, RUAG Space built the satellite dispenser, which functions as an interface between the Soyuz rocket and satellites. The dispenser is tailored to the need of a constellation like OneWeb, being able to deposit up to 36 satellites safely into space. 30)
Figure 6: Illustration of the RUAG Space dispenser system deploying the OneWeb satellites on Launch 2 (image credit: RUAG Space)
- "Our dispenser is super-light and includes state-of the art technology to safely place the satellites in orbit", says RUAG Space Executive Vice President Peter Guggenbach. "With our products we are contributing to this important project, which will enhance communication around the world."
- Starting from the launch in February 2020, the RUAG built OneWeb dispenser will include a conical top structure, a "hat", that has the capability to host up to four additional OneWeb satellites per mission.
- RUAG Space has developed a unique and cost effective solution that enables OneWeb to maximize the number of satellites per Soyuz launch. The top structure was developed within the contract with Arianespace for the OneWeb program.
- RUAG dispensers, produced in Sweden, are especially suitable for spacecraft constellations such as OneWeb, where a high number of spacecraft need to be placed in orbit within a short time frame. At its lower interface the dispenser structure is bolted to the launch vehicle upper stage. Each satellite is attached to the dispenser in separation nodes. The RUAG dispenser provides a stiff connection in each node during launch, a safe release and an accurate separation provided by the four separation nuts and spring units.
• February 3, 2020: Thirty-four satellites for the OneWeb constellation are ready for launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The satellites which arrived in two shipments, including one last week, have been tested, and have now been fitted into the dispenser of the Soyuz-2.1b rocket. OneWeb’s upcoming launch of 34 satellites has been scheduled for Thursday 6 February 21:42 (GMT) / Friday 7 February 02:42 (local time) from the historic Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. 31)
- “This launch will be a massive step forward for OneWeb – one step closer to the ambition of improving global connectivity. These 34 satellites will join the six currently operating flawlessly in orbit. Our joint venture OneWeb Satellites produces two satellites a day – in series production, just like Airbus makes planes,” said Jean-Marc Nasr, Head of Airbus Space Systems.
- The satellites, which are manufactured at 1/50th of the cost of a traditional spacecraft, are all fitted with plasma thrusters enabling them to reach their correct position in LEO (Low Earth Orbit) at 1,200 km.
- “Watching the first batch of our factory-built satellites launch from the Soyuz will be the realization of a four-year journey... and just the beginning,” said Tony Gingiss, CEO OneWeb Satellites. “Our factory continues to ramp up and streamline our production to deliver the next batch ... and the next ... and the next!”
- The OneWeb constellation will provide global connectivity with an initial 650 satellites. OneWeb’s mission is to provide affordable, high-speed internet connectivity everywhere for everyone, by 2021.
- After this first launch from Baikonur, OneWeb is planning to launch around 30 satellites with Soyuz rockets every month.
Figure 7: Flight readiness team at Baikonur with the OneWeb satellites-Copyright OneWeb Satellites (photo credit: Airbus)
• January 30, 2020: OneWeb, the global communications company with a mission to bring connectivity to everyone everywhere, today confirms its upcoming launch of 34 satellites has been scheduled for Thursday 6 February at 21:42(GMT) / Friday 7 February 02:42 (local time)from the historic Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. 32)
- This marks the start of a regular launch campaign during 2020 that will rapidly grow OneWeb’s first phase constellation of 648 satellites and represents one of the largest civilian satellite launch campaigns in history. Each satellite forms an integral part of the high-speed global satellite broadband network and together will activate OneWeb’s first customer demos by the end of 2020 to provide full commercial global services for sectors such as maritime, aviation, government and enterprise in 2021.
- In this first OneWeb launch of 2020, thirty-four satellites will be aboard a Soyuz launch vehicle. Arianespace will perform the launch, which will place the satellites into a near polar orbit at an initial altitude of 450 kilometers from where they will rise to their final orbit of 1,200 kilometers and form part of OneWeb’s global communications network. All the satellites are manufactured by OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus Defence and Space.
- OneWeb has chosen the theme Space for Everyone for the first launch of its 2020 Launch Program, showing how Space is becoming more relevant to everyday life as an important source of connectivity. In collaboration with governments, investors and distribution partners, OneWeb will bring its customers a new experience of connectivity together with social, educational and sustainability benefits. OneWeb’s vision is to see every school connected and it continues to be committed to tackling the digital divide that exists between the connected and unconnected.
- Launch Partner: Arianespace
- Launch Facility: Soyuz Launch Complex, Baikonur, Kazakhstan.
• November 12, 2019: The first Soyuz launch from Kazakhstan carrying a full load of more than 30 Florida-built satellites for OneWeb’s broadband Internet network has slipped from December to mid-to-late January, OneWeb officials said. 33)
- A OneWeb spokesperson said the satellites will be transported from their factory near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to the launch base at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan next month. OneWeb aims to begin limited service with its broadband network, which will eventually number at least 650 satellites.
- “We are taking the utmost care to prepare for launch and therefore are taking a few extra weeks to conduct additional tests on the satellites which will be shipped in December for launch,” said Katie Dowd, a OneWeb spokesperson. “We are targeting our next launch for mid-to-late January and remain on track for monthly launches thereafter and to begin service in the Arctic in late 2020 and global coverage in 2021.”
- OneWeb launched its first six test satellites — each about the size of a mini-fridge — in February aboard a Soyuz rocket from the Guiana Space Center in South America. Those satellites were built at an Airbus Defense and Space factory in Toulouse, France.
- OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus, opened a 105,500 square foot (9800 m2) satellite production facility in July at Exploration Park, Florida, just outside the gates of the Kennedy Space Center. OneWeb is building the rest of its satellites there, at a rate the company says will increase to produce up to two spacecraft per day.
- Arianespace won a lucrative contract in 2015 for 21 Soyuz launches to carry OneWeb’s initial constellation of 650 satellites to orbit. After the launch in February from French Guiana, Arianespace has 20 more Soyuz flights in its backlog to fill out the OneWeb constellation. The launches could take off from Baikonur, French Guiana, or the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East.
- The first flight of Europe’s new Ariane 6 rocket late next year will also loft a batch of OneWeb satellites. OneWeb and Arianespace announced the agreement for the Ariane 6 flight earlier this year. OneWeb has contract options for launches aboard two additional Ariane 6 missions.
- OneWeb’s Ku-band satellites fly polar orbit around 745 miles (1,200 km) above Earth, but the Soyuz launchers release the spacecraft — each about the size of a mini-fridge — at a lower altitude. The satellites use plasma thrusters to maneuver into the OneWeb constellation.
- OneWeb’s broadband fleet could grow to 1,980 satellites, the company said.
- Earlier this year, OneWeb announced that it demonstrated live HD video streaming through the company’s first six satellites. OneWeb and Iridium, which operates a low Earth orbit network with 66 cross-linked L-band communications and data relay satellites, announced an agreement in September to work toward a combined service offering.
- OneWeb is in heated competition with SpaceX, which has launched 120 Starlink broadband satellites on two dedicated Falcon 9 rocket flights this year, the most recent of which occurred Monday (11 November 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. 34)
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 8: 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. 35)
Figure 9: 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 10: 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. 36) 37)
- 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. 38) 39)
Figure 11: 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. 40)
- 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 12: 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. 41)
- “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 13.
• 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 14: One of OneWeb's first satellites, built in Toulouse, France by its Airbus joint venture OneWeb Satellites (image credit: OneWeb)
Figure 15: 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 16: 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 17: 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)
Launch 2: A Russian Soyuz launcher fired into orbit from the remote steppe of Kazakhstan Thursday with 34 satellites built on Florida’s Space Coast, commencing a sequence of launches to deploy a network of nearly 650 spacecraft for a global broadband network owned by OneWeb. 44) 45)
The launch Thursday (6 February 2020) was the first of up to 10 OneWeb missions this year, each carrying from 32 to 36 OneWeb satellites into orbit from spaceports in Kazakhstan, Russia and French Guiana. By next year, when OneWeb aims to have at least 648 satellites in orbit, the company plans to begin providing global Internet service.
Limited service could begin before the end of this year, according to OneWeb.
The 15-story Soyuz-2.1b rocket climbed away from the Site 31 launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 2142:41 GMT on 6 February 2020 and shot through an overcast cloud layer in the predawn skies over Kazakhstan, where liftoff occurred at 2:42 a.m. local time Friday (7 February).
Figure 18: A Soyuz-2.1b rocket lifts off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with 34 OneWeb broadband satellites on-board (image credit: Roscosmos)
The main engine of the Fregat upper stage ignited two times to place the 34 OneWeb satellites into a targeted polar orbit roughly 450 km above Earth, with an inclination of 87.4º to the equator. — From there, each satellite will use onboard electric propulsion to climb to their 1,200 km operational orbit.
Then began a series of deployments to release the 34 OneWeb satellites from a composite dispenser, or connecting interface, made by RUAG Space in Sweden.
First, two of the 147.5 kg satellites separated from the top of the cluster. The remaining 32 spacecraft separated in groups of four at intervals of approximately 20 minutes, with maneuvers by the Fregat’s smaller attitude control thrusters in between to ensure the satellites did not collide.
The satellite separation events largely occurred when the Fregat was outside the range of ground tracking stations. Officials from OneWeb and Arianespace — which arranged Thursday’s launch under contract to OneWeb — updated the status of the deployment sequence as they received data from the Fregat upper stage.
The last group of OneWeb satellites flew off the Fregat’s dispenser around 3 hours, 45 minutes into the mission. About an hour later, officials received telemetry data confirming the deployment of all 34 satellites.
Within around 10 hours of launch, ground teams at OneWeb’s satellite operations center received signals from 30 of the 34 satellites. Officials expected to hear from the other four satellites Friday.
Figure 19: A deployed OneWeb satellite in orbit (image credit: OneWeb)
Table 3: OneWeb satellites 46)
Launch 3: On 21 March 2020 (17:06:58 UTC), a Soyuz rocket and Fregat upper stage lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, delivering 34 more satellites to orbit for OneWeb’s space-based Internet network in the company’s second launch this year. 47) 48)
After shedding four kerosene-fueled first stage boosters, a core stage and payload shroud, the Soyuz third stage accelerated to near orbital velocity with the mission’s Fregat upper stage. The Fregat deployed from the Soyuz third stage and fired two times in a little more than an hour to inject the 34 OneWeb satellites into a near-circular polar orbit with an average altitude of around 450 km.
The Russian-made Fregat carried a multi-payload dispenser produced by RUAG Space in Sweden, which released the 34 satellites in groups of two or four. The final satellites separated nearly four hours after liftoff, and confirmation of the spacecraft separation events was relayed from the Fregat stage to ground stations intermittently — as planned — as the rocket passed overhead.
Arianespace, which is managing the launch services for OneWeb, confirmed all 34 satellites had separated from the rocket. It was the fourth launch of the year for Arianespace, and likely the last in the coming weeks, after officials suspended launch operations at the company’s primary operating base in French Guiana due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The successful launch Saturday gives OneWeb a constellation of 74 satellites, including spacecraft placed in orbit on two previous Soyuz/Fregat missions in February 2019 and on Feb. 6 of this year.
Fourteen of the additional OneWeb launches are expected to use Soyuz rockets later this year and next year from Baikonur, Vostochny and French Guiana. And OneWeb has agreed to launch at least 30 satellites on the inaugural flight of the next-generation European Ariane 6 rocket from French Guiana at the end of 2020.
• October 23, 2019: OneWeb, a global communications company with a mission to connect everyone everywhere, is presenting three papers at the 2019 International Astronautical Congress (IAC) this week, focused on analyses and recommendations for the protection of the future of Space. These papers represent the continuation of OneWeb’s pledge to champion an industry-wide culture of shared education, coalition-building, awareness-raising and research into Space environmental issues via its Responsible Space program. 49)
- OneWeb’s Responsible Space commitments are designed to build on, and strengthen the work already being done within the Space community. The research and papers provide a framework for responsible practices for the wider industry, other partners, and policymakers. OneWeb’s aim with these papers is to share our learnings and expertise; to invite additional coordination, collaboration, and to build shared responsibility for us all, to ensure the future of Space.
- The papers, co-authored by OneWeb’s Director of Mission Systems Engineering, Tim Maclay, and other respective experts, provide an analysis of three key elements in protecting space as a shared resource.
1) Long-Term Environmental Effects of Deploying the OneWeb Satellite Constellation. 50)
This study confirms the benefits of OneWeb’s design choices in relation to potential environmental effects. Led by Dr. Hugh Lewis (debris modeling expert) at the University of Southampton, UK, the analysis demonstrates that separating planes within a constellation result in: high post-mission deorbit reliability and short deorbit times, both of which significantly reduce the environmental impact of deploying large constellations.
2) Responsible Satellite Design and Operational Practices: A Critical Component of Effective Space Environment Management (SEM) 51)
Co-authored with Iridium and Maxar, this joint position paper proposes a comprehensive set of responsible design and operational practices to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) environment. These recommendations contribute to an industry-wide discussion on the Space environment challenges posed by the rapid increase in commercial launch activity in recent years and proposes updates to long-standing (and outdated) debris mitigation guidelines.
3) Space Environment Management: Framing the Objective and Setting Priorities for Controlling Orbital Debris Risk. 52)
This paper discusses the need for Space Environment Management (SEM) as an important element of assuring safe satellite operations in LEO. While characterizing the environment and actively avoiding collisions (Space Traffic Management) are necessary to assure safe operations, these activities alone are not sufficient. The paper makes the case that managing the environment is equally critical if we are to achieve sustainable operations in the long term. Debris Mitigation and Debris Remediation: not generating more debris and cleaning up large, derelict objects already circling the globe, are key elements of Space Environment Management (SEM).
“Since OneWeb launched its Responsible Space initiative in June, we have been heartened by the support and offers of collaboration from across the industry. We are taking our work to the next level by actively investing in the academic, technical and practical space protection agenda,” said Tim Maclay, Director of Mission Systems Engineering. “Taking a leadership position on this topic is about collaborating to make sure future generations can benefit from the New Space ecosystem and taking necessary actions to maintain a sustainable environment to achieve this aim.”
4) New Satellite Technologies to Provide the Geographic Ubiquity Needed to Connect the Globe, Benefitting the SDGs, 5G, and the Digital Divide. 53)
Half of the world’s people still have no internet access. Half of the world’s people lack the connectivity that has, without a doubt, become essential to education, knowledge-gathering, and the fundamental goals of every government, all because of where they live. Whether the area be remote or riddled with treacherous terrain, connecting many of these individuals has not been feasible. However, advancement in satellite technologies will be able to provide the geographic ubiquity needed to connect the globe and provide that foundational backbone to societal connectivity. Made possible through newly-launched non-geostationary satellite constellations, this connectivity has far more implications in development than just email and entertainment: these constellations will aid in the achievement of every single one of the United Nation’s SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals); they will enable 5G implementation even outside of highly-populated areas; and perhaps most importantly, close the digital divide.
• September 4, 2019: OneWeb, whose goal is to connect everyone everywhere, today announced the details of its Arctic high-speed, low-latency internet service. OneWeb will deliver 375 Gbit/s of capacity above the 60th parallel North. With service starting in 2020, there will be enough capacity to give fiber-like connectivity to hundreds of thousands of homes, planes, and boats, connecting millions across the Arctic. 54)
- The dense, flexible coverage of OneWeb’s polar-orbiting satellites coupled with its high-speed service and low latency capabilities will provide a superior connectivity experience to the 48% of the Arctic currently without broadband coverage. In fact, OneWeb most recently proved its system’s capabilities through HD video streaming tests last month with its first six satellites that showcased extreme low latencies under 40 milliseconds and high speed services.
- A global network, OneWeb’s Arctic service will be deployed significantly earlier and provide 200 times more capacity than planned systems. Substantial services will start towards the end of 2020, with full 24-hour coverage being provided by early 2021, supplying unprecedented blanket coverage to every part of the Arctic Circle.
- “Connectivity is critical in our modern economy,” said U.S. Senator for Alaska Lisa Murkowski. “As the Arctic opens, ensuring the people of the Arctic have access to affordable and reliable broadband will make development safer, more sustainable and create new opportunities for the next generation leading in this dynamic region of the globe.”
- Adrian Steckel, OneWeb Chief Executive Officer, said: “Connectivity is now an essential utility and a basic human right. Our constellation will offer universal high-speed Arctic coverage sooner than any other proposed system meeting the need for widespread connectivity across the Arctic.”
- Home to millions of people, the Arctic is a growing economic hub for many important industries. OneWeb’s seamless global network will facilitate smart shipping, connected aviation, the collection of climate data, and the growth of a digital economy across the region.
- 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. 57)
- 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. 58) 59)
- 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. 60)
- 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. 61)
- 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). 62)
- 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. 63) 64)
“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 20: OneWeb System Overview (image credit: The Aerospace Corporation, OneWeb)
Figure 21: 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).