OneWeb Satellites: Worldwide Connectivity

Photo credit: Twitter image from GK Launch Services (official operator of Soyuz-2 commercial launches from Russian spaceports)

OneWeb expands broadband constellation through sixth batch of satellites

OneWeb has launched its latest batch of 36 spacecraft from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia into its low Earth orbit broadband constellation of 182. Arianespace launched the satellites with a Soyuz-2.1b rocket putting them into a near-polar orbit at an altitude of 450km.

During the four hours after lift-off the satellites raise themselves to an operational orbit at an altitude of 1,200km.

How will OneWeb work?

OneWeb will provide a new source of broadband connectivity for businesses, communities, and governments around the world. It could also improve connectivity in a broad range of sectors, including aviation, maritime, government, and enterprise customers, unlocking digital services and applications in a wide range of locations that historically have not had access to low latency broadband connectivity.

When will OneWeb launch?

Another two batch deliveries will see OneWeb on track to roll out connectivity services to locations above 50 degrees North in latitude by the end of 2021. This would include the UK, northern continental Europe, Alaska, Greenland, Iceland, Canada and the Arctic Ocean.

A global roll out will require more satellites with the initial projected network containing roughly 650,  a second generation would be nearer to 7,000.

Unlike SpaceX, OneWeb won't sell its services directly to consumers, but rather provide infrastructure to existing operators, allowing them to offer their own, branded satellite internet to areas not covered by fibre.

Who is behind OneWeb?

Formed in 2012, OneWeb is now majority-owned by the British government and the Indian telecoms operator Bharti Global, following a $500million investment. The satellites are produced in Florida through a joint venture with aerospace corporation, Airbus.

Is OneWeb adding to the space junk problem?

At the European Conference on Space Debris broadband internet constellations were a key topic due to the recognition that they are altering the nature of the space environment. Experts in the field are concerned that there may not be sufficient room to host the thousands of satellites envisioned this decade by numerous commercial interests.

The European Space Agency, which monitors the traffic in the vicinity of its orbital missions, says half of all close approaches now involve active constellation satellites, whereas in the past the concern was nearly always the redundant hardware that litters the sky.

Who is OneWeb’s competitor?

OneWeb's main competitor is Elon Musk’s internet mega-constellation business Starlink, which is being set up by the Californian rocket company SpaceX. Starlink has more than 1,300 satellites in orbit at present, with thousands more to follow.

Other OneWeb competitors include Kuiper, a subsidiary of online retailer Amazon; and Lightspeed, a mega-constellation plan from Canadian satellite communications company Telesat. The European Union and the Chinese government are also rumoured to be planning major networks of their own.



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