OneWeb Satellites -- a joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus -- has propelled satellite broadband into the next dimension with the opening of a facility that, according to the company, is capable of producing up to two satellites per day at approximately one-fiftieth of the cost of traditional satellite builders.
This latest stride in broadband satellite innovation arrives about 50 years after man first walked on the moon: In fact, OneWeb Satellites' factory is located only a few miles south of the Kennedy Space Center launch pad where NASA launched that "giant leap." When combined with reusable rockets and increasingly larger constellations of small, low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites, the "high-volume, high-speed advanced satellite production facility" (as OneWeb Satellites describes it), continues to reshape the satellite broadband industry once dominated by a handful of companies.
"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, in a statement.
Secret on the Space Coast
Tucked away behind Merritt Island's canals and marshes is a state-of-the-art facility where a staff of about 250 people and assorted automation tools make satellites. (Source: OpenWeb Satellites)
At first, the facility -- located in Merritt Island, Fla., next door to the Kennedy Space Center -- will support OneWeb's construction of its constellation of 650 satellites. This will eventually scale up to 1,980 satellites to target global connectivity, according to OneWeb Satellites. The company announced it successfully tested six satellites
in low-earth orbit earlier this month.
"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, in a release. "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."
At first, OneWeb wants to cover the earth with broadband, then focus on adding capacity to meet ongoing demands, the company said.
However, while OneWeb is undoubtedly making operational progress, questions remain about its business case. (See OneWeb's LEO strategy shows more progress, but questions remain.)
In the first half of 2019, there has been a lot of significant activity in the satellite broadband market, including:
— Alison Diana, Editor, Broadband World News. Follow us on Twitter or @alisoncdiana.