Boeing Developing V-band Satellite Constellation | Radio magazine

Doug Irwin, CPBE AMD DRB

June 27, 2016

CHICAGO — Boeing wants U.S. and international regulators to reconsider constraints on low-orbiting satellite broadband constellations (Non-geostationary satellite orbits, or NGSO) using C- and V-bands and has specifically asked the FCC for a license to launch and operate a network of as many as 2,956 V-band satellites, according to Spacenews.com.

Boeing’s proposed system would operate in the same V-band spectrum (40-75 GHz) as fifth-generation (5G) systems; however, Boeing believes technological advances make possible the effective sharing of spectrum for the delivery of global communications services, including satellite-delivered broadband and terrestrial 5G applications.

Although a great deal of spectrum is already available for current generation mobile wireless, Boeing says the need for spectrum is constantly growing as 5G services approach the market. At the same time, Boeing believes “the FCC must ensure that any 5G designations provide protection for existing satellite services and future growth of the satellite industry,” according to the same article.

C-band spectrum reserved for satellite systems has been coveted by terrestrial-wireless interests for years. Boeing’s senior director for frequency management systems asked for a broad review of C- and V-band spectrum rules at the WRC conference scheduled for 2019. The reviews were put on regulators’ agenda at WRC-15.

Boeing’s C- and V-band networks would feature intense reuse of the broadcast frequencies. For the V-band network, the company says each satellite’s beams would be subdivided into thousands of cells, each 8-11 kilometers in diameter and each carrying up to five 1-gigahertz channels.

via Boeing Developing V-band Satellite Constellation | Radio magazine.

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Boeing applies for license to launch proposed satellite constellation – LA Times

Samantha Masunaga

June 23, 2106

Boeing Co. has applied for a license from the Federal Communications Commission to launch and operate a network of thousands of satellites, joining companies such as SpaceX and OneWeb in the new race to build constellations for broadband Internet access.

In its application filed Wednesday, Boeing said it planned to initially deploy 1,396 satellites into low-earth orbit within six years of the license approval.

Eventually, the aerospace giant said its system would total 2,956 satellites designed to provide Internet and communications services for commercial and government users around the globe.

Boeing said it intended to operate the satellites in the V-band spectrum, which is barely used.

SpaceX and OneWeb have both proposed constellations of hundreds or even thousands of satellites that would provide low-cost Internet access, especially in more remote parts of the world.

In its application, Boeing noted that OneWeb also intends to operate its satellites at an altitude of about 745 miles above the earth, and said it would work with the Arlington, Va., company to avoid in-orbit collisions.

Boeing is still working out whether it will actually provide the service or just make the satellites and get them into orbit, and where the satellites will be built. Boeing’s satellite business is based in El Segundo.

In a statement, the company said its plans for a broadband system are a “natural evolution and extension” of its experience with the design and manufacturing of complex satellite systems.

The number of proposed satellite constellations is reminiscent of the 1990s, when companies including Iridium and Teledesic planned to send swarms of satellites into orbit to provide mobile communications.

But entrepreneurs underestimated the cost of such networks, and ground-based cellular services ultimately undercut the proposed services.

Marco Caceres, senior space analyst for the Teal Group, said the new plans for satellite constellations are driven by the potential of increased access to and new uses of the Internet.

“Everybody’s trying to propose these massive constellations and be the first one to get it up there and take advantage of creating a whole new market,” he said. “No one wants to be left behind.”

But he said these companies face a similar challenge as the companies from the past: finding enough investment capital to build the networks. And if they all make it up there, there will be questions of whether there is enough frequency space for all to operate.

“Only a handful of companies will succeed, if that many,” he said.

samantha.masunaga@latimes.com

via Boeing applies for license to launch proposed satellite constellation – LA Times.

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LeoSat corporate broadband constellation sees GEO satellite operators as partners – SpaceNews.com

Peter B. de Selding

June 14, 2016

SINGAPORE – LeoSat Enterprises, which is designing a constellation of low-orbiting satellites to provide secure broadband links to corporate and global networks, is positioning itself as a natural partner to established geostationary-orbit satellite operators as it seeks to complete its Phase a fundraising round of $100 million.

LeoSat Chief Executive Mark Rigolle said that while the company’s original schedule has slipped a bit, the reaction of prospective investors and customers to the LeoSat idea has been encouraging.

In an interview here at the recent CommunicAsia conference, Rigolle said satellite manufacturer Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy has completed the LeoSat preliminary design review.

A Phase B funding round of $175 million will need to be completed before Thales Alenia Space moves to a detailed design review, which will refine the system architecture — including its overall cost and the number of satellites required — before hardware construction starts.

The LeoSat satellite design uses the same Thales Alenia Space Elite bus that is flying on the O3b Networks medium-Earth-orbit broadband constellation and is expected to launch starting this summer for mobile communications provider Iridium’s Iridium Next constellation of 66 low-orbit satellites.

Rigolle conceded that with so many low-orbit constellations shopping around for support, LeoSat has had to stress the fact that it is not offering broadband to consumers or to rural villages.

LeoSat is currently designed as a network of 78 satellites in six orbital planes, connected by optical inter-satellite links, delivering Ka-band broadband to corporations and governments that want low-latency, high-speed secure links between Point A and Point B.

“Forget that we’re using satellites for a second,” Rigolle said. “We are a fully meshed optical network in space, an enterprise-grade VPN in the sky in terms of latency, security and redundancy. We are better than fiber because over distances of 10,000 kilometers, we are faster: Light travels faster in space than through glass.”

Rigolle said the work with Thales Alenia Space has tentatively confirmed, through a Phase A study of the system’s broad technical feasibility, that a 78-satelite network is likely to cost $3.5 billion, with the satellites being the largest component. “Our design is not one where we can produce a satellite $500,000 per satellite,” he said, referring to OneWeb LLC, which has created a joint venture with Airbus Defense and Space to build 900 low-orbiting satellites, at $500,000 or less apiece.

Whether OneWeb Satellites will reach that $500,000 cost target remains to be seen.

“We are serving applications that are highly secure, latency-sensitive and need to get from point to point without traveling over third-party networks,” Rigolle said. “This is not a bent-pipe network like most other satellite systems.”

Rigolle said LeoSat does not view itself as competing with either traditional fixed satellite service fleet operators or with the other low-orbiting satellite constellations, most of which are directed at millions of consumers and small businesses.

“We are targeting maybe 3,000 to 5,000 customers total after a few years, selling them big chunks of fiber-like connectivity,” Rigolle said. “Each customer would have 2-3 tracking antennas on its rooftop for redundancy, so it’s several hundred thousand dollars of equipment. To give an example, the smallest increment we will be selling in is 100 megabits per second. For us, that is low throughput.”

Rigolle is a former chief financial officer of geostationary satellite fleet operator SES of Luxembourg, and former chief executive of O3b. SES was an early O3b investor and recently exercised an option to purchase 100 percent of O3b, citing complementarities between geostationary-orbit and low-orbit satellites.

OneWeb’s investor mix includes satellite fleet operator Intelsat of Luxembourg and McLean, Virginia, which like SES sees business opportunities in the low-orbit design, at least for some of its customers. Airline connectivity provider Gogo Inc. of Chicago has said it would use OneWeb to connect customers travelling over the polar regions where geostationary-orbit satellites, located over the equator, might be challenged to make the links.

Fleet operator Telesat of Canada is launching two small technology demonstration satellites for a low-orbiting constellation, although Telesat has not committed to building the system.

Rigolle said the LEO-GEO link in these cases is one reason he views a partnership with an established geostationary satellite fleet operator as a likely outcome for LeoSat. He explained the delay in Phase-A funding to the company’s shift in focus from financial investors such as investment funds to strategic investors such as established satellite operators.

With LeoSat still looking to complete its first round of funding, and OneWeb having announced no new investors since its initial $500 million a year ago, industry officials are beginning to question both the business case and the financial traction of these proposed systems.

Rigolle said that’s one reason LeoSat is strongly supportive of OneWeb, which has been the most active of the new low-orbit systems in lining up initial investors and contracting with a satellite manufacturer.

“OneWeb’s success would be good news for LeoSat, no doubt about it, even if they are moving toward a business-to-business orientation for their early operations – just as O3b did,” Rigolle said. “We are not in OneWeb’s business but the perception of the industry is such that a OneWeb problem would not be good news for us.”

via LeoSat corporate broadband constellation sees GEO satellite operators as partners – SpaceNews.com.

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Broadband battle takes to the skies as coalition targets SpaceX satellites – LA Times

Samantha Masunaga and Jim Puzzanghera

June 9, 2016

The increased demand for broadband access is setting up a fight for the airwaves between entrepreneurs Charlie Ergen and Elon Musk.

A coalition of mobile broadband providers, including the Ergen-led Dish Network, is asking the Federal Communications Commission to expand its ongoing rule-making proceeding to include new uses for airwaves previously reserved for satellites.

That range of airwaves is being targeted by companies such as Musk’s SpaceX and Arlington, Va.-based OneWeb, both of which are planning to launch constellations of hundreds or even thousands of satellites into orbit to provide low-cost Internet access, especially in more remote parts of the world.

In an FCC filing, the Multichannel Video Distribution and Data Services 5G Coalition said reserving a certain part of the spectrum for low-orbiting satellites could jeopardize plans for next-generation, or 5G, services because of interference.

It also questioned whether the proposed satellite constellations will materialize. Similar plans in the 1990s for swarms of satellites ended up falling far short of expectations.

In a filing, the coalition said there was “simply no basis to jeopardize” deployment of 5G services to give additional spectrum to a “speculative” service. It added that the satellite service already has access to “ample spectrum for future operations.”

In its own FCC filing, Hawthorne-based SpaceX said the coalition’s petition came at “precisely the wrong time.”

“Investment and development is at an all-time high and operators are on the precipice of bringing revolutionary broadband access to market,” SpaceX said. Satellite service provider Intelsat, which is an investor in OneWeb, also submitted an FCC filing opposing the coalition’s plan.

The FCC wants to make more airwaves available for mobile Internet and other innovative wireless services. Agency officials are hoping technological advances soon will make airwaves in what’s known as the “spectrum frontier” – a far end of the spectrum that has limited uses – available for 5G services.

“In the competitive mobile marketplace, standing still means falling behind,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said last fall when the FCC launched a formal rule-making process. “We need to be looking to the future of wireless. We need to be looking at 5G.”

In October, the FCC proposed rules for new uses for a slice of those frontier airwaves that does not include those in the Ku-band, which is reserved for fixed satellite services.

via Broadband battle takes to the skies as coalition targets SpaceX satellites – LA Times.

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Dish Network battles OneWeb and SpaceX for Ku-band spectrum rights – SpaceNews.com

Peter B. de Selding

June 9, 2016

PARIS — A coalition of 5G terrestrial mobile broadband companies led by Charlie Ergen’s Dish Network on June 8 asked U.S. regulators to strip future low-orbiting satellite Internet constellations of their priority access to 500 megahertz of Ku-band spectrum – spectrum coveted by prospective constellation operators including OneWeb LLC and SpaceX.

SpaceX and satellite fleet operator Intelsat, a OneWeb investor and partner, immediately filed separate opposition papers to the FCC, arguing that nongeostationary-orbit (NGSO) constellations are very much alive.

In a June 8 submission to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the coalition says the low-orbiting satellite constellations in Ku-band have provided no credible evidence that they will ever be built. Even if they are, there is plenty of spectrum available in both Ku- and Ka-band, the coalition said.

“There is simply no basis to jeopardize 5G [Multi-Channel Video Distribution and Data Service, or MVDDS] deployment to give additional spectrum to a speculative NGSO service that already has access to ample spectrum,” the MVDDA Coalition said in its FCC petition, referring specifically to OneWeb.

Based in Britain’s Channel Islands, OneWeb in April submitted to the FCC a request for a U.S. operating license and has been the most active of the proposed nongeostationary-orbit (NGSO) constellations. It raised $500 million in June 2015 and since has created, with partner Airbus Group, a satellite manufacturing company with which it has signed a contract to build 900 OneWeb satellites.

OneWeb has signed a firm, fixed-price contract for 21 OneWeb launches aboard Europeanized Russian Soyuz rockets, to start in late 2017 or early 2018.

OneWeb Satellites, based in Exploration Park, Florida, recently announced its selection of a first group of satellite subcontractors.

But in the year since its announcement of investors and strategic partners, OneWeb has not announced any new backers for what it estimates will be a capital investment of $3 billion or more.

SpaceX: Quiet doesn’t mean inactive

Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX, a growing provider of launch services, in January 2015 announced that it would build a satellite production facility in Seattle, Washington, for a constellation of 4,000 satellites, also using Ku-band for the links to end users.

Since then, SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who in addition to managing a diverse and growing SpaceX business portfolio is also chief executive of electric-car manufacturer Tesla Motors, has had little to say about the satellite initiative.

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell has said the investment remains “very speculative” pending a deeper assessment of its business plan. She also said an early 2015 investment of $1 billion in SpaceX by Google and Fidelity Investments was for general SpaceX corporate purposes and not earmarked for the satellite project.

SpaceX’s hiring announcements, however, have suggested the company intends to pursue the satellite constellation beyond its stated plan to launch two small technology-demonstration satellites that under current international regulations would preserve the regulatory reservation of the entire SpaceX constellation.

In its FCC filing, also dated June 8, SpaceX said low-orbiting constellation development “is at an all-time high and operators are on the precipice of bringing revolutionary broadband access services to the market.”

SpaceX explained its relative silence about its satellite plans as being the result not of indecision, but of competitive discretion.

“The details of these proposed [satellite] systems are not currently well-known, as the development and deployment of satellite systems are highly proprietary and may take several years to finalize, during which time the operators hold details as highly confidential for obvious competitive reasons,” the company said.

The MVDDS Coalition is specifically asking that the FCC, when it moves forward this year on its Spectrum Frontiers Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, permit two-way 5G mobile networks to use the Ku-band frequency between 12.2 GHz and 12.7 GHz. That would mean, in effect, removing the priority allocation now given for nongeostationary-orbit satellite systems.

The coalition said a recent study performed by Tom Peters, a former chief engineer at the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, found that new technology would permit 5G to coexist in this spectrum with current direct-broadcast television satellite signals.

5G coalition agrees sharing not possible with LEO constellations

The coalition concedes that no such spectrum sharing is possible with low-orbiting satellite systems without “severe operational constraints on MVDDS, NGSO FSS [fixed satellite service] or both services.”

“Even with the best-case assumption of a mobile device transmitting at the lowest power level possible, NGSO devices will still receive interference when they are located within 22 meters of a 5G mobile device,” the coalition said.

Unlike a years-long battle between terrestrial wireless broadband providers and satellite systems with respect to C-band, the Ku-band contest appears to benefit from a clear understanding that neither can work with the other in the same frequencies.

The coalition said other parts of Ku-band, plus Ka-band frequencies, are available to satellite constellations – should they be built.

Luxembourg- and McLean, Virginia-based Intelsat, which operates a fleet of satellites, many in Ku-band, in geostationary orbit and is a OneWeb partner and investor, echoed the SpaceX position but went further.

Intelsat noted OneWeb’s FCC application and said OneWeb is only the first. “[I]t is likely that other NGSO FSS systems soon will file applications seeking to serve the United States,” Intelsat said.

Intelsat also disputes the coalition’s claim that existing direct-broadcast satellite services are able to coexist with two-way 5G mobile in the 12.2-12.7 GHz band.

This spectrum is occupied “by literally millions of of unregistered receive-only Earth terminals that inherently are incompatible with a terrestrial mobile service,” Intelsat said. “[A]dding the proposed two-way mobile service… may also cause harmful interference to Intelsat’s existing gateway operation.”

via Dish Network battles OneWeb and SpaceX for Ku-band spectrum rights – SpaceNews.com.

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Companies To Buy Ahead Of Imminent Affordable Global Satellite Internet | Seeking Alpha

Matt Bohlsen

June 6, 2016

Summary

Internet penetration rate is only 35.3% in developing counties, and only 9.5% in the least developed countries.

Global satellite provided internet access could unlock the final potential 3 billion plus internet users in developing countries and rural areas.

Industry players are positioning themselves to capture this internet user market – the rewards can be huge.

Several groups are moving in to be the first to provide affordable global access to the 3 billion potential internet users that have so far been left behind due to cost and access issues.

Capturing the second half of the world’s internet users can be rewarding for those that succeed, hence most of the big players are involved. In this article, I will focus on the plans to start a global satellite world wide web, that will be accessible to all, and at an affordable price.

History

It should not be forgotten that many have tried and failed before. Teledesic, was a failed project funded in part by Microsoft that ended up costing more than $9 billion. Teledesic’s idea was to create a broadband satellite constellation of hundreds of low-orbiting satellites, providing inexpensive internet access with download speeds of up to 720 Mbit/s. The project was abandoned in 2003.

In September 2003, Eutelsat launched the first internet-ready satellite for consumers. By 2011 ViaSat’s launched the ViaSat-1 satellite, and in 2012 the HughesNet’s Jupiter was launched. ViaSat, through its Exede brand, and EchoStar, through subsidiary HughesNet still operate today. Qualcomm (QCOMM) also launched Globalstar. The current satellite services are typically very expensive and have a limited throughput of data.

via Companies To Buy Ahead Of Imminent Affordable Global Satellite Internet | Seeking Alpha.

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OneWeb to debut as B2B broadband wholesaler before serving world’s poorest – SpaceNews.com

Peter B. de Selding

April 28, 2016

PARIS— Internet satellite constellation startup OneWeb LLC on April 28 submitted its license application with U.S. regulators as part of what likely will be a multi-year slog through the world’s capitals as the company seeks global operating rights.

OneWeb has opened an office outside Washington, D.C., and is based in Britain’s Channel Islands and its home regulatory agency is Britain’s Ofcom.

But getting a license from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission – among the world’s most public and sophisticated of radio frequency regulators – has important symbolic value to OneWeb, said Kalpak Gude, the company’s legal and regulatory vice president. He said that realistically it may take until mid-2017 for the FCC to grant the license.

OneWeb made its filing under its originally incorporated name, WorldVu Satellites Ltd., and has hired Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP  and Wiley Rein LLP as legal counsel for the procedure.

OneWeb’s newly announced Florida satellite facility is scheduled to be starting high-rate production to meet the company’s schedule of launching 720 satellites between early 2018 and the end of 2019.

To meet that schedule, OneWeb is working on multiple fronts.

OneWeb Chief Executive Matt O’Connell said the company had begun preparing a second around of financing and had hired Deutsche Bank and Barclays to sound out investor interest in OneWeb’s project, whose ultimate goal is providing broadband access to the most isolated of rural communities.

OneWeb in June 2015 raised $500 million from mainly strategic investors, meaning companies whose financing was in part done to guarantee them a role on OneWeb’s contracting team.

But the investors also included cellular network operators Bharti Enterprises of India and Grupo Salinas of Mexico – companies that can be of help to OneWeb as it seeks regulatory approval in each nation in which it plans to operate.

O’Connell said the absence of financial investors from the first round was not a concern.

“It makes more sense for strategic investors to get things going,” O’Connell said. “When I was in venture capital our pitch was: Anyone can give you money. What you want is a smart investor with skin in the game, who can offer you more than money.”

OneWeb’s constellation consists of 720 satellites – 40 spacecraft in each of the 18 orbital plans – in low Earth orbit, covering every corner of the globe.

The track record of other satellite operators seeking approvals in nations such as India and China – the biggest and among the most difficult for foreigners to enter – suggests that the OneWeb regulatory battle will be long.

But O’Connell – who was hired perhaps as much for his investment banking background as for his former role as chief executive of geospatial imaging provider GeoEye — said the company would begin as a business-to-business offer to small and midsize companies. Much of the legwork in securing licenses will be done by OneWeb’s local partners.

O’Connell said OneWeb founder Greg Wyler’s vision of broadband for every poor village is as valid as ever, but will be realized only after OneWeb secures a place in the market.

“Greg’s vision was: Let’s bring the Internet to the unserved all over the world,” O’Connell said in an interview. “I’ve said since I got here that we still hold that vision and we will achieve that.

“But we’re going to start by serving small and medium-size enterprises in the underserved markets because that’s the way you build up cash flow and revenue,” O’Connell said. “Then at the same time you work to bring the terminal cost down so you can roll it out and serve the truly unserved. So we focus on a business-to-business strategy. A lot of the heavy lifting on the regulatory side will be done by our partners, and by the partners of those partners. That’s the way business-to-business works, and it will make it easier to roll out business faster.”

By “underserved,” O’Connell meant rural areas in developed nations that remain off the broadband grid and are unlikely to be connected by 4G or 5G cellular, or terrestrial broadband. “Unserved” is a term reserved for less-developed nations’ markets where a much wider swath of the population outside the major cities remains unconnected.

Gude said regulators should view OneWeb as a typical fixed satellite services provider that happens to be launching 700-plus satellites into low Earth orbit.

“From a regulatory perspective there are a lot of similarities between what we do and what FSS operators do,” Gude said. “There are established rules for [market] entry in many places and, where we can, we’ll be following that path with our partners. Predominantly, we expect our customers to be getting those licenses where necessary.”

India for years has been a special headache for fixed satellite service operators because the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is both market-access regulator and the national space agency responsible for building domestic telecommunications satellites.

ISRO decides on what terms, and with what pricing, non-Indian satellite operators can do business in India. It is mainly because ISRO has been unable to launch enough satellites to meet surging demand for television that India has begun to open its market to foreign satellites.

“Is it going to be easy? No,” said Gude. “But the fact that Bharti is a partner of ours will help with the ISRO relationship.”

via OneWeb to debut as B2B broadband wholesaler before serving world’s poorest – SpaceNews.com.

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OneWeb Satellites to open factory in Florida with eyes on business beyond OneWeb – SpaceNews.com

Peter B. de Selding

April 18, 2016

PARIS — Start-up Internet satellite constellation operator OneWeb LLC will build most of its 900-satellite constellation in a new factory in Exploration Park, Florida, following a co-funding agreement with the state of Florida, industry officials said.

The long-expected announcement was to be confirmed April 19 at a ceremony attended by OneWeb officials and Florida Gov. Rick Scott, officials said.

The creation of the Florida manufacturing plant adds another piece to the OneWeb puzzle, but at least two more-important decisions are expected from the company this year.

The first is fundraising beyond the $500 million in mainly supplier-provided equity announced in June 2015.

Just as crucial, industry observers have said, will be OneWeb’s selection of user-terminal builders. Terminal design and cost issues have stymied Internet satellite constellations in the past. OneWeb’s target market, in less-developed countries, makes it even more important that the user hardware be inexpensive, easy to install and rugged.

Along the way, OneWeb will confront the laborious task of securing landing rights in countries such as India and China, where regulatory issues have slowed other broadband projects.

OneWeb officials have said the Florida locale, near the Kennedy Space Center, benefits from the presence of a half-dozen other aerospace companies with manufacturing operations in the vicinity, creating a pool of technical talent.

Space Florida, which is Florida’s aerospace economic development agency, in January agreed to back an unidentified project, which industry officials confirmed was in fact OneWeb Satellites, a 50-50 joint venture between OneWeb LLC and Airbus.

Under the plan agreed to by Space Florida, the company will invest about $80 million in its manufacturing facility, including $36 million in the plant itself. The plant will qualify for $17.5 million in matching funds from the Florida Department of Transportation for the construction phase.

OneWeb Satellites has said it expects around 250 jobs to be created at the peak production run for the OneWeb constellation. The company is building about 900 satellites, including spares. The orbital constellation consists of 720 satellites – 40 spacecraft in each of the 18 orbital plans, all at 1,100 kilometers in altitude.

OneWeb and Airbus have said their partnership aims at producing each 150-kilogram OneWeb spacecraft for $500,000 or less once the facility is a full production cadence.

For OneWeb Satellites and for the state of Florida, the long-term success of the facility will hinge on whether the company is able to sustain a business by building satellites for other companies beyond OneWeb.

OneWeb LLC, based in Britain’s Channel Islands, in June 2015 raised $500 million from a group of investors including OneWeb satellite prime contractor Airbus Defence and Space, ground hardware component providers Hughes Network Systems and Qualcomm and satellite fleet operator Intelsat.

Two prospective customers — Bharti Enterprises of India and Grupo Salinas’s Totalplay Telecommunications of Mexico — also invested in OneWeb equity.

For the moment, OneWeb is lacking financial investors. OneWeb also has yet to announce agreements with the French export-credit agency, Coface, for low-cost, government-guaranteed financing.

The first 10 OneWeb satellites will be built at Airbus’s Toulouse, France, facility. Most of the constellation will be launched aboard Russian Soyuz rockets, with the launch operations managed by Arianespace of Evry, France. The first 10-satellite launch is scheduled for late 2017 or early 2018, with the full constellation in orbit by the end of 2019.

OneWeb and Arianespace in June 2015 signed what Arianespace has described as a firm, fixed-price contract valued at more than $1 billion for 21 Soyuz launches. The contract includes options for five additional Soyuz campaigns and three launches aboard Europe’s Ariane 6 rocket, set to debut operations in 2020.

OneWeb has also contracted with Virgin Galactic of Long Beach, California, to launch replacement satellites aboard Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne rocket.

How much of OneWeb’s capital investment could be guaranteed by Coface has been a subject of debate in France and may depend on how much French content is installed on OneWeb satellite beyond the contribution of Airbus as prime contractor.

Whether backing from Coface’s U.S. counterpart, the U.S. Export-Import Bank, will be available to OneWeb is unclear. The bank has been awaiting confirmation of a new director for several months. Until the position is filled, the bank is unable to approve large-scale commitments.

via OneWeb Satellites to open factory in Florida with eyes on business beyond OneWeb – SpaceNews.com.

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Airbus and OneWeb form joint venture to build 900 satellites – SpaceNews.com

Peter B. de Selding

January 27, 2016

OneWeb’s constellation will consist of 648 low-Earth orbit satellites plus spares. Credit: Airbus/OneWeb

Airbus and OneWeb on Jan. 26 announced they had formed the company OneWeb Satellites, which will build the OneWeb constellation – 648 satellites plus spares, for a total of about 900.

The two companies said Brian Holz, OneWeb’s chief technology offer, would be chief executive of OneWeb Satellites, in which Airbus and OneWeb will have equal ownership shares.

The first 10 satellites will be built at Airbus’s Toulouse, France, facility and launched aboard Russian Soyuz rockets — either the Europeanized version operated from Europe’s spaceport here, or the fully Russian version launched form Russian territory — in 2018.

The remaining 890 OneWeb spacecraft are to be built at a U.S. facility that industry officials say is likely to be located in Florida but has not yet been announced.

via Airbus and OneWeb form joint venture to build 900 satellites – SpaceNews.com.

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SpaceX President Downplays Commitment To Building Broadband Constellation – SpaceNews.com

Peter B. de Selding

October 27, 2015

PARIS — SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell on Oct. 27 downplayed the company’s 4,000-satellite broadband Internet constellation, saying the project remained “very speculative” pending a deeper assessment of its business case.

Speaking in Hong Kong at the Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA) convention, Shotwell said SpaceX’s focus remains on the launch side of its business.

Shotwell said SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, which failed in June during a cargo mission to the International Space Station, would return to flight in December.

The Hawthorne, California, company had already announced that it would launch 11 small Orbcomm machine-to-machine messaging satellites into low Earth orbit on the next flight, which will also be the first use of the upgraded Falcon 9. Once the Orbcomm satellites have been released, the flight will test re-ignition of the upgraded Falcon 9’s second-stage engine, a maneuver that is needed to launch heavier telecommunications satellites into geostationary transfer orbit.

‘Trust But Verify’

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell, speaking Oct. 27 at CASBAA,  on the valuable lesson company officials learned from  Falcon 9’s June failure:

“We’ve learned a huge amount from that particular event. We were expanding production and expanding our supply base. It was important to get our arms around procuring components for rockets. It doesn’t take a lot to bring a rocket down. In fact it was not an expensive component that brought this rocket down in June.

“But it was an important lesson for us to learn. I think we’re moving more from a ‘trust’ environment to a ‘trust but verify.’ That’s an important lesson to learn, certainly as we move to bigger rockets carrying more-expensive satellites as well as modifying our cargo spacecraft, the Dragon capsule, to carry crew. These are lessons you need to learn before you put people on top….

“We had a failure in June and our next launch wasn’t going to be until August or September anyhow. We’ve moved that flight into December, so it’s pushed us about three months. We’ve got a backlog of customers that have to fly. I think that by early Q2 next year we should be caught up.”

The upgraded Falcon 9 features a higher-thrust first stage and other modifications, including a longer second stage with a higher-thrust engine and a longer nozzle, to give the vehicle more power while reserving enough energy to return the rocket’s first stage for subsequent reuse.

SpaceX has said an early December launch of Orbcomm’s satellites could be followed, the same month, by the launch of Luxembourg-based SES’s 5,300-kilogram SES-9 telecommunications satellite. Both the Orbcomm and SES launches are to occur from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

The company has scheduled the use of the last of its earlier-version Falcon v1.1 rockets to launch the U.S.-European Jason-3 ocean-altimetry satellite into low Earth orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. It remains unclear when that flight would occur.

SpaceX’s intentions with respect to a broadband Internet satellite constellation have been the subject of debate and occasional confusion in the industry since Jan. 15, when company Chief Executive Elon Musk announced the opening of a satellite production facility outside Seattle.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk in Seattle announcing plans to build a 4,000-satellite constellation. Credit: Washington Aerospace Partnership via Twitter

It was then that Musk, addressing an invitation-only crowd in Seattle, talked of a 4,000-satellite constellation to perform Internet trunking services. A week later, SpaceX confirmed that Internet search giant Google and Fidelity Investments together had invested $1 billion in SpaceX, giving the company a valuation of around $11 billion.

The proximity of the two events has led to speculation that Google, which accounted for $900 million of the $1 billion investment, was backing a satellite Internet project alongside its other research investigating drone- and balloon-provided Internet in areas currently off the broadband grid.

The speculation was fed in part by Google’s February statement to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it’s SpaceX investment was “to support continued innovation in areas of space transport, reusability and satellite manufacturing.”

SpaceX has since said it would launch two small satellites to test the radio frequencies it wanted to use for the project, and to secure the company’s reservation with international frequency regulators.

Shotwell has always denied the Google satellite link, saying the Google and Fidelity cash went into SpaceX’s treasury for general corporate purposes and had not been earmarked for the satellite venture.

Addressing CASBAA’s convention Oct. 27, Shotwell sought to dispel the impression that SpaceX — already busy returning from a launch failure with an upgraded rocket, developing a Falcon Heavy variant, upgrading its Dragon cargo freighter to carry crew for NASA — was moving full-speed-ahead with what would almost certainly be a multibillion-dollar investment in satellites.

“I would say that this is actually very speculative at this point,” Shotwell said of the satellite Internet idea. “We don’t have a lot of effort going into that right now.

“Certainly I think that from a technical perspective this could get done. But can we develop the technology and roll it out with a lower-cost methodology so that we can beat the prices of existing providers like Comcast and Time Warner and other people? It’s not clear that the business case will work,” Shotwell said.

via SpaceX President Downplays Commitment To Building Broadband Constellation – SpaceNews.com.

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