OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus, opened a production facility in Florida to offer “high-volume, high-speed” fabrication of satellites to provide internet connections.
The company says that in contrast to traditional satellite manufacturing – a task that normally requires tens of millions of dollars and more than a year – OneWeb Satellites will use “industrial-scale mass production techniques” that will both reduce costs and result in the completion of up to two satellites in a single day.
According to OneWeb Satellites CEO Tony Gingiss, this will result in the rapid expansion of internet connectivity all over the world.
“OneWeb Satellites and its partners are transforming the satellite and space industry,” Gingiss said in a prepared statement. “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.”
The design life of these satellites will be more than five years in a 1,200 km orbit, or more than seven years in a 500 km orbit. Additionally, each satellite could be produced for 1/50th of the cost required by a traditional satellite manufacturer, according to OneWeb.
The new facility is expected to bring 250 high-tech jobs and 3,000 indirect jobs to Florida’s Space Coast. Its first task will be to quickly scale the OneWeb network, starting with 650 satellites and eventually escalating to 1,980 satellites. This is meant to address unsatisfactory connectivity experienced by people traveling by air or by sea. It is also meant to provide global connectivity to a world in which half of the population is still not connected to the internet.
“With today’s opening, we are one step closer to connecting the unconnected for the benefit of societies all over the world,” said OneWeb CEO Adrian Steckel. “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 opening of the facility was attended by several government officials, including FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, U.S. Senator Rick Scott, and Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Manisha Singh.
In his remarks, FCC Chairman Pai said that in addition to bringing jobs and revenue to Brevard County, Florida, the new spacecraft manufactured by OneWeb Satellites would improve education all over the world.
“As part of OneWeb’s initiative to connect schools, each satellite is named in honor of a school in a remote part of the world without much traditional Internet access,” Pai said. “These schools are far-flung, representing Alaska and Ecuador, Honduras and Kyrgyzstan, Nepal and Rwanda. Connecting schools like these to the internet will help countless children around the world dream of a future that wasn’t possible before.”
OneWeb isn’t the only company scrambling to deliver internet via satellite. Amazon is moving forward with its satellite-based broadband initiative Project Kuiper, seeking approval to launch thousands of satellites for connectivity across the globe.
And, SpaceX previously snagged FCC approval to launch nearly 12,000 broadband satellites, 60 of which launched in late May.