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Odp: [SpaceNews] OneWeb’s Big Announcement Should Quiet Doubters
« Odpowiedź #15 dnia: Marzec 29, 2019, 23:08 »
How OneWeb plans to make sure its first satellites aren’t its last
by Caleb Henry — March 18, 2019 [SpaceNews]

This article, which originally appeared in the March 11, 2019 issue of SpaceNews magazine, was updated March 18.

The first of OneWeb’s 21 Soyuz launches took place Feb. 27, carrying the first six OneWeb satellites into low Earth orbit. Subsequent missions are expected to carry 30 or more satellites at a time to build out a minimum constellation of 648 satellites. Credit: Arianespace

OneWeb’s dream of blanketing the globe in affordable, abundant broadband took an important step toward reality Feb. 27 when a Russian rocket lifted off from South America to deliver six French-built satellites into low Earth orbit.

OneWeb was facing a November deadline to put up its first satellites or risk losing spectrum the International Telecommunication Union alloted several years ago for the ambitious broadband megaconstellation.

If all continues to go as planned, OneWeb’s first six spacecraft will finish on-orbit testing this spring, clearing the path for an initial system of 648 satellites — 600 operational and 48 spares — and setting the stage for a larger system that could eventually number 900 or more satellites.

Orbiting the initial 648-satellite constellation will entail the largest launch campaign in history. In late summer of early fall, OneWeb expects to start launching 30 or so satellites at a time on Soyuz rockets lifting off every three to four weeks. In addition these 20 Soyuz missions booked through European launch service provider Arianespace, OneWeb is also counting on one or more Ariane 6 launches plus a to-be-determined number of Virgin Orbit LauncherOne missions to complete its constellation by 2021.

OneWeb and its satellite manufacturing partner Airbus Defence and Space have crammed 10 gigabits per second of capacity into spacecraft the size of dishwashers. Tom Enders, Airbus Group’s outgoing CEO, said Feb. 14 that OneWeb satellites cost $1 million each to produce, and that the companies will be able to complete 350 to 400 satellites annually from their joint venture OneWeb Satellite’s $85 million Florida factory opening in April. The first batches of Florida-built satellites should be delivered to OneWeb toward the end of the third quarter, Airbus spokesman Guilhem Boltz said.

OneWeb’s satellites are a technological marvel. Traditional geostationary communications satellites are as big as trucks, take years to build, typically cost $100 million or more and still might generate less throughput than a few OneWeb satellites.

But the satellite industry has seen other technological marvels reach orbit while the business plans behind them fall back to the ground.

The most notorious failure was Teledesic. The Bill Gates-backed venture raised $1 billion in the 1990s to build an 840-satellite “internet in the sky” but flamed out a few years after launching a single demo satellite.

While Iridium and Globalstar had succeeded by 2000 in deploying relatively modest constellations that enabled the advent of handheld satellite phones, both ventures went bankrupt in the process. However, Iridium and Globalstar ultimately emerged from bankruptcy and went on to launch second-generation constellations.

Each OneWeb spacecraft weighs about 150 kilograms — much more than cubesats but considerably less than the average communications satellite, which often weighs several tons. Credit: ARIANESPACE/CNES/ESA

OneWeb’s current risks are seen as primarily financial, not technical, according to Eric Anderson, a former Moog chief technologist and CSA Engineering executive involved in Teledesic and Iridium. He’s now a space consultant and investor.

“If their revenues are slow in growing, which I expect they will be, then they can’t plow anything significant back into capital expenditures like building new satellites and ground station infrastructure,” Anderson said.

OneWeb said on the eve of its inaugural launch that it had raised and spent more than $2 billion to date, a total that includes $1.7 billion spread over two high-profile equity rounds since 2015 and an undisclosed amount the company says it raised last year. The first $500 million came in 2015 from industry partners Airbus, Hughes Network Systems, Intelsat, Qualcomm and Virgin Group, plus Coca-Cola, Mexican telecom company Grupo Salinas and Indian telecom company Bharti Airtel. In 2016, Japanese tech conglomerate SoftBank supplied $1 billion of a $1.2 billion round that included previous investors.

In September, OneWeb replaced its CEO for the third time since 2015, replacing Airbus veteran Eric Béranger with OneWeb board member Adrian Steckel, who had been serving simultaneously as chief executive of Grupo Salinas Telecom and cryptocurrency startup Uphold.

Steckel, speaking to reporters in Kourou, French Guiana, before the Feb. 27 Soyuz launch of OneWeb’s first six satellites, predicted OneWeb will achieve profitability in 2022, or about six months after OneWeb expects the constellation to achieve full global service.

Steckel indicated OneWeb would soon raise more funds from previous investors. That proved true March 18 when the company announced a $1.25 billion round — its largest to date — led by SoftBank Group Corp., Grupo Salinas, Qualcomm Technologies, and the government of Rwanda.

The new round brings OneWeb’s total capital to $3.4 billion — a sizable sum, but one that’s significance can’t be fully gauged without a total cost estimate for the OneWeb system.

While early estimates ranged from $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion, OneWeb no longer shares projections for deploying the constellation. When Steckel was hired last fall, Uphold issued a news release (soon retracted) that described OneWeb as a “$6B global broadband effort.” OneWeb founder Greg Wyler described it in 2017 as a $4 billion venture when he testified before a U.S. congressional hearing on satellite connectivity.

OneWeb CEO Adrian Steckel speaking inside the Jupiter control room inside the Guiana Space Center ahead of OneWeb’s first launch aboard an Arianespace Soyuz Feb. 27. Credit: SpaceNews/Caleb Henry

Roger Rusch, president of the satellite consulting firm TelAstra, thinks both Wyler’s $4 billion estimate and Uphold’s dubious $6 billion figure are too low. He estimates OneWeb will ultimately need $7.5 billion to complete its system, and possibly more if it finances the user terminals.

“The realistic number is probably far beyond where they are right now,” said Rusch, who helped design several satellite systems with manufacturers. “It’s probably three times more than what they have.”

OneWeb’s individual spacecraft, while dramatically cheaper than traditional satellites, are still at least twice as expensive as the sub-$500,000 price point OneWeb envisioned when the program began. Rusch cautioned that less obvious costs, like gateway ground stations, real estate and regulatory licensing can further inflate costs beyond early estimates.

Other satellite operators have criticized OneWeb’s approach as unsound — one that will profit launch providers, satellite manufacturers and their suppliers while leaving investors high and dry.

OneWeb leadership insists that’s not the case.

From project to business

“We know that we will sell out [of capacity],” Steckel said. “When you give data at good speed with coverage that people haven’t had before and a device that works for them, you sell out.”

OneWeb still has a long way to go to sell out capacity of the envisioned initial system of 648 satellites.

The day of the launch, OneWeb announced its first two customers: UK-based satellite teleport and network operator Talia and Italian telecommunications company Intermatica.

OneWeb declined to provide contract values, but Steckel said the Talia deal “almost makes our year just with that one contract.”

The Soyuz rocket carrying OneWeb’s first satellites also bore the logo of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a nonprofit focused on instilling youth with a fascination for science and technology. Credit: ESA/CNES/ARIANESPACE

It’s not clear how soon either announced contract will generate significant revenue for OneWeb. In a news release, OneWeb said its service “will come on stream for Talia starting in 2021, with virtually all of Talia’s markets activated by 2023.” Talia spokesman Elliot Banks declined to comment on the contract’s financial terms.

OneWeb’s announcement of the Talia and Intermatic contracts also revealed a significant change in its relationship with SoftBank, its largest investor.

SoftBank originally claimed full ownership of OneWeb’s capacity, but Wyler said Feb. 27 the two companies have backed away from that approach.

“That was something we had worked on, with them having all of the capacity for all the system and they were going to resell it, but we’ve changed that model together,” he said.

Wyler didn’t give an exact date for the change, saying it occurred “gradually over a number of months.”

With SoftBank no longer a guaranteed buyer for the constellation’s full capacity, OneWeb’s success as a business rests more squarely on its own shoulders.

Debt financing shelved

OneWeb’s March 2019 capital raise also marked a departure from a previous plan to rely on debt financing for the remainder of its funding needs.

“It changed,” Steckel said in explaining OneWeb’s plan to go back to shareholders rather than arranging debt financing through export-credit agencies, which often condition their support on proof of customer commitments.

“What we haven’t wanted to do is become dependent on outside financing,” Steckel said. “It was going to force us to sign commercial deals ahead of time and give too many discounts to customers.”

Steckel said early-bird discounts risked setting an expectation for OneWeb capacity prices at a rate lower than what the company wants, turning a sale price into the de facto norm.

“Our issue isn’t ‘will we sell out?’ Our issue is making sure that we sign the right deals so that we don’t sell out too soon and at the wrong price,” he said.

An initial public offering of OneWeb stock is also on the table for meeting the company’s future capital needs. Steckel said OneWeb “absolutely” plans to go public — just not for a while.

“Our mission is to bring connectivity everywhere … but to get there we need to build a viable business,” Steckel said. “It’s a premium product, it costs a lot of money to put it up, and we need to be able to monetize it.”

Reaching profitability

OneWeb predicts its initial system will be ready to provide 500 megabits-per-second connections with just 30 milliseconds of lag time by the time it reaches global coverage in 2021.

For now, OneWeb’s first six satellites (operational spacecraft, not prototypes) can collectively provide 18 minutes of service at a time — far too little for most customers OneWeb intends to serve. But each successive launch will increase that time, with polar regions becoming the first to get 24-hour coverage.

OneWeb anticipates launching around 150 satellites this year using four or five Soyuz rockets and potentially Virgin Orbit’s still-unflown LauncherOne, which can carry one to two satellites at a time. By 2020, the company should reach 300 satellites — enough that Canada and other regions close to the north and south poles will have 24-hour coverage, Wyler said. As the constellation scales to 648, the canopy of 24-hour coverage will reach the equator, providing global coverage, he said. Steckel said full service should start in 2021 or early 2022.

Steckel said OneWeb will be profitable in 2022, going so far as to project achieving profitability after the first six months of full, global service.

Outside observers caution that OneWeb appears likely to burn through a lot more cash before the constellation starts generating significant revenue.

“They need to get to this level of meaningful service, whether it’s 300 satellites or whatever, so that the full build out of the network is considered viable by other financiers,” Anderson said. “It seems really close, their ability to do that right now, but if revenues are only trickling in, or the margins are substantially lower than the high margins that traditional satellite operators can get, then I think they are not going to be able to get the additional billions.”

Space shattering

OneWeb was founded with the lofty goal of bringing fast, affordable internet to every corner of the globe. “We envision a world where all people have access and hold the power to create opportunity for themselves and others wherever they are,” is how OneWeb currently describes its mission. But bridging the world’s digital divide will require OneWeb to build a successful business around connecting customers with much deeper pockets than a remote village or typical school.

Sir Richard Branson, left, with OneWeb founder Greg Wyler at the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana for OneWeb’s Feb. 27 inaugural launch. Credit: SpaceNews/Caleb Henry

Mobile network operators using OneWeb’s satellites to backhaul communications traffic for cellular towers will account for a lot of the company’s early customers, Steckel said. He listed aviation, maritime and government customers as other anticipated early users — alongside schools. “There are many different methods or financial models to connect the schools in many different countries with different abilities to pay,” Wyler said.

Wyler said his primary job at OneWeb has been to make sure the company stays true to its more philanthropic objectives while balancing financial investments and reaching “rapid profitability” as a company.

“We have a good balance of investors today who are watching both sides,” he said.

Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic’s billionaire founder, is one such investor. At the launch, Branson described OneWeb as “space shattering” in the difference it can make.

“It is going to be enormous,” he said.

Wyler said the $2 billion-plus OneWeb has spent getting to the point where it is nearly ready to start launching satellites by the dozens was a “one-off” expense that went into securing launches, establishing manufacturing infrastructure and setting up a supply chain. Marginal costs to build and expand the system are low from this point, he said.

But questions about OneWeb’s ability to pull off its dream linger, nonetheless.


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Odp: [SpaceNews] OneWeb’s Big Announcement Should Quiet Doubters
« Odpowiedź #16 dnia: Marzec 29, 2019, 23:09 »
What Airbus learned from building satellites with OneWeb
by Caleb Henry — March 19, 2019
This article originally appeared in the March 11, 2019 issue of SpaceNews magazine.

Nicolas Chamussy, Airbus Defence and Space’s executive vice president of space systems, said building the OneWeb satellites required a complete rethink of how to design a satellite with an emphasis on repeatability. Credit: OneWeb Satellites

Regardless of whether the Airbus-OneWeb joint venture gearing up to crank out dozens of satellites a month ultimately builds just 648 satellites or closer to the 900 originally envisioned, OneWeb’s constellation is the first such project large enough to truly incorporate aviation-style mass production procedures for spacecraft.

“People had thought about it … but never had an opportunity to do it because they never had big series of production,” said Nicolas Chamussy, Airbus Defence and Space’s executive vice president of space systems. “Yes, there were 10, 20, or 40 satellites, but not 900.”

Chamussy said Airbus, in forming the OneWeb Satellites joint venture getting ready to open an $85 million factory on Florida’s Space Coast, assembled a roster of aviation, automobile and munitions suppliers already well known to the larger Airbus Group.

“Airbus is delivering three aircraft a day, so it means that [our suppliers] are used to deliver[ing],” he said.

Chamussy said building the OneWeb satellites required a complete rethink of how to design a satellite with an emphasis on repeatability.

“It has to be repeatable and repeatable in a manner that does not open any opportunity for mistake,” he said.

One notable change between previous satellites and those Airbus is building with OneWeb is the use of a single onboard computer instead of three. Airbus designed the new single computer and outsourced it to a supplier that could build the finished product at scale, Chamussy said.

Despite the complexity of the OneWeb satellites, Chamussy said the most difficult part remained the same as for any other satellite: the software.

“As always the challenging part was not something that you develop, it’s the onboard software,” he said. “The onboard software is touching each and every equipment and function, and it’s the last piece of development.”

Because of that complexity, Chamussy said Airbus chose to keep the software as its direct responsibility.


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Odp: [SpaceNews] OneWeb’s Big Announcement Should Quiet Doubters
« Odpowiedź #17 dnia: Marzec 29, 2019, 23:09 »
Ruag revises strategy to win constellation orders
by Debra Werner — March 19, 2019
This article originally appeared in the March 11, 2019 issue of SpaceNews magazine.

A close up of a Ruag automated potting machine used in satellite panel manufacturing. Credit: Ruag Space

Long before Ruag began producing structures for OneWeb communications satellites, the Swiss aerospace equipment supplier noted the market shift toward large constellations and began investing in automation.

For decades, satellite operators and government agencies usually ordered one or two satellites at a time. Such spacecraft generally are designed to last 15 years or more.

For the new constellations, companies plan to launch hundreds of satellites into orbit within the span of two or three years and then begin replacing them with updated technology five to seven years later.

Niklas Boman, Ruag Spacecraft Product Group sales and marketing director. Credit: Ruag Space

“It’s not only the sheer number of components that need to be made but also the window of manufacturing is much shorter,” said Niklas Boman, Ruag Spacecraft Product Group sales and marketing director. “That’s the major change that the industry is undergoing now,” Boman said during a recent interview at the Ruag Space USA office in Santa Clara, California.

For equipment suppliers, the surge in satellite orders can seem daunting because of the quantities. A typical communications satellite structure includes 10 to 15 honeycomb or aluminum panels. Each satellite also requires 2,500 to 3,000 inserts, the attachment points for sensors or instruments. For a 500-satellite constellation order, Ruag would need to produce as many as 1.5 million inserts.

Before working on constellations, Ruag employees placed inserts in each panel manually. Now, a robotic arm picks up an insert, applies adhesive, places it in a panel and then measures to confirm its precise location.

“You can’t do 1.5 million inserts manually,” Boman said. “You need robots.”

The robots work in the 2,200 square meter manufacturing facility Ruag established in 2017 in Titusville, Florida, to manufacture satellite structures for OneWeb Satellites, the Airbus-OneWeb joint venture. Ruag is not disclosing the cost of the Titusville factory, but Boman called it a “huge investment.”

Before constellations changed the market, Ruag optimized satellite parts for technical excellence. Now, the company balances three goals. A part must be technically sufficient to perform its function. It also must be inexpensive and easily mass produced. Without all three elements, “you have no business case,” Boman said.

Ruag also supports OneWeb launches in addition to producing thermal insulation for the satellites, mechanical ground support equipment and dispensers to send 32 satellites into orbit at a time.

It was important for Ruag’s facility to be geographically close to the Airbus-OneWeb assembly, integration and test facility. While shipping parts for a single satellite is not a problem, if a company is shipping components for hundreds or thousands of satellites “logistics become a major cost factor,” Boman said. “Being geographically close to the satellite assembly, integration and test facility or the launch base has a huge impact on the overall business case.”

Ruag’s Titusville factory also is designed to support other constellations. Because the space industry is known for customizing satellites and spacecraft components, Ruag’s production line is designed to adapt to various customers seeking parts for low Earth orbit constellations as well as satellites destined for medium Earth or geostationary orbit.

“We believe much of this lower-cost technology we are building for low Earth orbit satellites is also going to end up in the geostationary and medium Earth orbit satellites,” Boman said. “They will utilize everything we produce for low Earth orbit satellites to take down the cost.”


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Odp: [SpaceNews] OneWeb’s Big Announcement Should Quiet Doubters
« Odpowiedź #18 dnia: Czerwiec 13, 2019, 21:57 »
Virgin Orbit takes OneWeb to court over canceled launch contract
by Brian Berger — June 6, 2019 [SN]

OneWeb agreed four years ago to pay Virgin Orbit $234 million, or $6 million a launch, to loft its satellites one or two at a time into low Earth orbit using the air-launched LauncherOne vehicle the Long Beach, California, company expects to debut this year. Credit: Virgin Orbit

WASHINGTON — Virgin Orbit is suing OneWeb for refusing to pay a termination fee for canceling all but the initial four of the 39 launches it ordered from Virgin Orbit in 2015 to fill gaps in its planned constellation of at least 648 broadband satellites.

According to a complaint Virgin Orbit filed June 4 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, OneWeb quietly canceled 35 of a planned 39 launches last June, triggering a $70 million termination fee spelled out in the contract. Virgin Orbit says OneWeb still owes $46.32 million. The lawsuit was first reported by

OneWeb, the complaint says, agreed four years ago to pay Virgin Orbit $234 million — or $6 million a launch — to loft its satellites one or two at a time into low Earth orbit using the air-launched LauncherOne vehicle the Long Beach, California, company expects to debut this year.

OneWeb, which counts Virgin founder Richard Branson among its investors, launched its first six satellites in February aboard an Arianespace Soyuz rocket and intends to continue using Soyuz to deploy the bulk of its constellation 35 satellites at a time.

Will Pomerantz, vice president of special projects at Virgin Orbit, said June 6 the company still expects to fly at least four missions for OneWeb.

“While we don’t have a comment on this matter specifically, we’d like to voice our on-going support for OneWeb’s mission of providing affordable, low-latency internet access across the globe via satellite,” Pomerantz said by email. “We are excited by the success of OneWeb’s initial test satellites, and we look forward to flying their spacecraft soon, and to helping support and sustain their constellation for many successful years to come.”

OneWeb spokesperson Katie Dowd declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.

Virgin’s complaint

According to Virgin Orbit’s 14-page complaint, Virgin and OneWeb entered into a launch services agreement May 20, 2015, that called for four “initial firm launches” to start in 2017 and 35 “remaining firm launches” to start in 2018. The contract included options for an additional 100 launches at an agreed upon $6 million per launch, meaning Virgin Orbit stood to earn between $234 million and $834 million under its agreement with OneWeb.

Virgin Orbit says OneWeb sought during the spring of 2017 to reduce the number of launches, pay less per launch, “and spread out the launch dates for several years beyond the original terms.” OneWeb, according to Virgin’s complaint, also balked at escalating termination fees built into the contract, saying its lenders objected to incurring the increased obligation. Virgin Orbit at first agreed to slow the rate of escalation and then agreed to freeze it at a flat $70 million through June 15, 2018, while negotiations over a revised contract continued.

On June 7, 2018, after months of negotiations, Virgin Orbit sent OneWeb a new written proposal. On June 14, 2018 — the day before the contract termination fees were set to resume their rise — OneWeb canceled the 35 “remaining firm launches” but left intact the agreement covering the four initial launches, according to the complaint.

Virgin Orbit told the court that OneWeb had paid $26.25 million toward the 35 launches since signing the contract in 2015 but had fallen $19 million behind on its payments by the time it canceled the launches last June and incurred $2.1 million in associated late-payment fees.

Last July, about six weeks after canceling the 35-launch order, OneWeb sent Virgin Orbit $22.36 million, or roughly $1.26 million more than it owed in past-due payments and late fees.

Virgin Orbit says that even after factoring in last July’s payment plus the $26.25 million OneWeb had previously paid toward the now-terminated launches, OneWeb still owes it $46.32 million.

OneWeb, per the complaint, maintains that it doesn’t owe Virgin Orbit any money for canceling 35 launches.

After failing to resolve the dispute through informal mediation, Virgin Orbit decided to sue for breach of contract, seeking the $46.32 million plus legal fees and past due interest.

Jeff Foust and Caleb Henry contributed to this story from Washington.


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Odp: [SpaceNews] OneWeb’s Big Announcement Should Quiet Doubters
« Odpowiedź #19 dnia: Lipiec 31, 2019, 23:33 »
OneWeb Satellites inaugurates Florida factory
by Jeff Foust — July 22, 2019 [SN]

The OneWeb Satellites factory, located just outside the gates of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will be able to produce two OneWeb satellites a day when fully operational. Credit: SpaceNews/Jeff Foust

MERRITT ISLAND, Fla. — OneWeb Satellites, the joint venture of Airbus and OneWeb, formally opened its Florida factory that will soon be producing satellites for OneWeb’s constellation at the rate of two per day.

The July 22 ribbon-cutting ceremony at the 9,750-square-meter factory, located just outside the gates of the Kennedy Space Center here, marked the formal opening of the facility, although its twin production lines are still being commissioned and have yet to start full-scale satellite production. The event attracted dignitaries that included Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai and Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who was governor when Florida landed the deal three years ago to bring the factory to the state.

Ultimately, the factory will be able to build two satellites a day for OneWeb, allowing the company to maintain a high launch cadence as it seeks to deploy its initial 648-satellite constellation over the next two years.

“We are going to pioneer serial satellite production,” said Tony Gingiss, chief executive of OneWeb Satellites, at the ceremony. “It is something that has not been done in the industry.”

The company designed the factory from the ground up to support mass production of satellites. The twin production lines are laid out to optimize assembly, and make use of robots known as automated guided vehicles to move components efficiently from one station to the next.

Company officials said on a tour of the factory that they are still testing various aspects of the assembly process, and didn’t give an estimate on when full-scale production will begin. However, the first set of 34 OneWeb satellites, scheduled to launch in December on a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, will be built at the factory. Additional launches will follow on a monthly cadence from Baikonur and the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East, each carrying 34 to 36 satellites.

“This is physical, tangible evidence of progress” said Adrian Steckel, chief executive of OneWeb, of the new factory at the ceremony. He said with its planned launch rate OneWeb will be ready to provide broadband access globally in two years, with initial service starting in Alaska and Canada next year.

The OneWeb Satellites factory features two production lines designed top optimize the assembly of satellites. Credit: OneWeb Satellites

OneWeb’s first six satellites, built at an Airbus factory in Toulouse, France, launched in February on a Soyuz rocket from French Guiana. The company announced last week that those satellites are fully operational and, in tests, demonstrated the ability to provide broadband access at 400 megabits per second and a latency of about 30 milliseconds.

“We’re able now to show and demonstrate working satellites and the ability to connect places around the world,” said Greg Wyler, founder and chairman of OneWeb.

Wyler, in his comments at the ceremony, emphasized the ability of OneWeb to help achieve the goal of connecting every school in the world by 2022, with OneWeb providing connectivity to those schools that can’t be reached by other means. However, he also OneWeb was “getting ready to gear up on the sales side” for commercial customers of the system.

In an interview, Wyler said OneWeb would be targeting rural customers who have few options for broadband today. “We’re going to offer an incredibly valuable and competitive product,” he said. Another initial market will be “land mobility” services for buses, trucks and emergency vehicles.

Another key element of the business plan will be costs. Wyler said OneWeb was still targeting “$1 million and under” for the per-satellite production cost, after the company set an initial cost target of $500,000 per satellite in 2015.

The factory’s first customer will be OneWeb, but Gingiss said OneWeb Satellites is looking for additional users. One example is the contract Airbus won in January from DARPA for its Blackjack program, which seeks to examine how commercial smallsat constellations could be used for military applications.

“We also want to bring this to the larger commercial sector and to military LEO applications,” he added, although he didn’t identify any specific opportunities the company is pursuing.

The factory, which supports 250 jobs, is in Exploration Park, a business park just outside the Kennedy Space Center gates that is also home to a new factory built by Blue Origin for its New Glenn orbital launch vehicle. The ribbon-cutting ceremony took place in a tent across the street from the OneWeb Satellites factory on land that will host a groundbreaking later this year for a Firefly Aerospace launch vehicle factory.

Frank DiBello, chief executive of Space Florida, the state’s space-focused economic development agency, said that only eight acres remains available in Exploration Park, and that he was working to identify other sites in the state’s Space Coast region for other businesses as the area continues to rebound from the aftermath of the retirement of the space shuttle eight years ago.

“Seldom do communities get the opportunity — although they desire it — to transform the industrial base,” said Lynda Weatherman, president and chief executive of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast. “It’s taking place here, and it’s a wonderful thing to see.”


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Odp: [SpaceNews] OneWeb’s Big Announcement Should Quiet Doubters
« Odpowiedź #20 dnia: Sierpień 10, 2019, 07:12 »
Op-ed | Two more rules for building a megaconstellation
by Luca Rossettini — August 4, 2019 [SN]

An artist's rendition of communications satellites in low Earth orbit. Credit: OneWeb

Miniaturization and standardization of commercial low-cost, high-performance components have enabled a class of smaller space vehicles whose cost of development, manufacturing, and launch is three orders of magnitude lower than what used to be just a few years ago. To compensate for the inevitable performance gap at the spacecraft level, we can now coordinate the operations of hundreds of units into megaconstellations whose overall performance — especially in terms of temporal resolution — is astonishing. This architecture is the way to go to establish global infrastructures that will revolutionize fields like telecommunications, remote sensing, Internet of Things, agriculture, logistics, and many more.

While the concept of constellation is not new, the challenges connected to operating hundreds of spacecraft at the same time are yet to be fully understood. An article published in the June 10, 2019 issue of SpaceNews magazine lists “Three rules for building a megaconstellation”:

Rule No. 1: build new tech fast

Rule No. 2: automate selectively

Rule No. 3: leave room for failure

This set of rules highlights a major shift in an industry where the timeframe between mission design and start of operations used to reach a decade, an industry where hardware specifications were written in stone in early design phases and never questioned afterward, and an industry where a failure of a minor sub-component could cause a billion-dollar loss. SpaceNews’ list outlines a design approach focused on the short-term sustainability of the constellation.

I believe we should add a couple rules to this list to ensure long-term business durability in space. I’m glad to notice that the operators of some of the most demanding constellations are already taking them into account.

Rule No. 4: as long as your tech is in orbit, it is your responsibility

The performance revolution of small satellites — cubesats in particular — have introduced the concept of “partial failure” in an industry where mission success used to be an “all-or-nothing” matter. The recent launch of the first batch of Starlink satellites demonstrates that nowadays it is possible to launch 60 spacecraft, lose a few of them, and still claim a victory because the performance data and lessons learned gathered from their failure far outweigh the cost connected to their loss. This is probably a valid example of Rule No. 3 “leave room for failure.”

However, at a time when a dozen companies are planning to populate Earth’s orbit with competing megaconstellations, a 5 percent mortality rate — still to be demonstrated — can rapidly produce several hundred defunct objects drifting along business viable orbits, raising the cost of operations of the remaining operational satellites, jeopardizing the business model, and increasing collision risk for everyone.

While the design of a constellation can tolerate a 5 percent mortality rate, it is essential that mission planners specify a way to get those failed satellites out of the way, whether with a backup decommissioning system, an active debris removal (ADR) mission, or what I believe would be the more effective solution from an economic and business point of view: a mixed strategy that combines orbit clearance via a small, independent, and reliable decommissioning system capable to move the defunct satellite out of the way, and a satellite design ready for ADR. Besides the moral imperative to leave the orbit clean, the cost of these solutions is likely to repay itself several times in terms of operational cost savings and increased spacecraft lifetime.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s proposed rule “Mitigation of Orbital Debris in the New Space Age” already investigates some forms of economic incentive to satellite operators that adopt a decommissioning system on their satellites.

Besides that, the satellites of some of the megaconstellations mentioned in the article have enough propellant to allow end-of-life disposal in one-tenth of the time currently required by the IADC’s 25-year guideline, are designed to be serviced and removed by ADR, and have room on board for independent and autonomous decommissioning systems to be used for orbit clearance.

Rule No. 5: your mission is over only after proper decommissioning

With Rule No. 2, “Automate selectively,” SpaceNews describes SpaceX’s and OneWeb’s plan to partially automate operations, with emphasis on automatic collision avoidance. While this is undoubtedly a smart move, I believe that responsible operators should also do their best to prevent a massive creation of further defunct satellites that could challenge even the best automatic system of this kind, jeopardizing, once again, the economy of the space business.

Disposal into a graveyard orbit has been an essential part of GEO missions for decades, justified by the finite nature of this precious orbit. In the era of megaconstellations, the polar orbit region is the new GEO, a strategic resource whose clearance is a common responsibility. Therefore, no megaconstellation should be built without giving proper thought to end-of-life disposal.

Final Thoughts

As NewSpace companies, we are pioneering a new way of using space for business. The earliest NewSpace entities have been changing the traditional paradigms on many fronts: design, manufacturing, performance, and business model. The most recent ones are enabling the economic sustainability of the space business, offering services like orbital transportation and servicing.

Most of the industrial and business sectors on Earth feature a similar value chain. While the concept of a self-sustaining “cradle-to-cradle” design is making more and more economic sense for businesses on Earth, in space we are not yet systematically applying the “cradle-to-graveyard” approach.

We are in a transitional phase where the space market is experiencing an unbounded exponential growth. While it may be too early to promote the “cradle-to-cradle” design approach — at least from an economic point of view — it is definitely the right approach that we, the NewSpace companies, should aim at. In the meantime, “cradle-to-graveyard” is already a convenient first step.

In the words of University of California professor Carlo M. Cipolla’s famous essay “The Five Universal Laws of Human Stupidity,” doing nothing is like “damaging others while generating losses for ourselves.”

Luca Rossettini is CEO of D-Orbit, a Como, Italy-based company whose products and services cover the entire lifecycle of a space mission, including mission analysis and design, engineering, manufacturing, integration, testing, launch, and end-of-life decommissioning.


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Odp: [SpaceNews] OneWeb’s Big Announcement Should Quiet Doubters
« Odpowiedź #21 dnia: Sierpień 10, 2019, 07:12 »
OneWeb founder Wyler calls for responsible smallsat operations
by Jeff Foust — August 6, 2019 [SN]

OneWeb founder Greg Wyler delivers the opening keynote address Aug. 5 at the 33rd Annual Conference on Small Satellites in Logan, Utah. Credit: Keith Johnson for SpaceNews

“I’m really not a fan of just launching stuff in space to raise money, and launching stuff in space that’s not finished or not ready or vetted,” OneWeb founder Greg Wyler said, in an apparent reference to SpaceX.

LOGAN, Utah — The founder of broadband megaconstellation company OneWeb urged the smallsat industry to operate responsibly in orbit, warning that failed satellites and collisions could result in stifling government regulation.

In an Aug. 5 keynote address at the Conference on Small Satellites here, Greg Wyler contrasted OneWeb’s emphasis on building reliable satellites and avoiding the creation of orbital debris with unnamed companies that he fears may sacrifice reliability in a rush to get their satellites launched.

“I’m really not a fan of just launching stuff in space to raise money, and launching stuff in space that’s not finished or not ready or vetted,” he said. “You should not be throwing up hundreds and hundreds of kilograms of mass that just becomes a missile.”

Wyler didn’t identify by name any companies that are launching satellites in that way, but his comments appeared to be a veiled reference to SpaceX and its Starlink constellation. SpaceX launched its first 60 Starlink satellites in May, and later reported at least three had failed. The company also raised a $310 million funding round about a month after that launch.

“To not sit and think about longer-term ramifications of what you’re doing is just irresponsible,” he said. “We had a team on space debris from day one.”

Wyler argued that OneWeb is trying to be a responsible operator by focusing on the reliability of its satellites, avoiding failures that prevent from the company from deorbiting them. The first six OneWeb satellites, launched in February, are 100% functional, he said.. “We’re really, really happy with them.”

With a completion of a new factory in Florida, the company is preparing to launch its initial constellation of 650 satellites in batches of 34 to 36 each. Those launches will take place monthly, starting in December, on Soyuz rockets.

Wyler said he was worried, though, about the effects on OneWeb and the industry should there be another collision like the Iridium-Cosmos event a decade ago. “If we have a couple of satellites collide, you’re going to see regulations and you’re going to see it fast, and it’s going to make no sense at all,” he warned.

He added he wasn’t concerned about competing with what he estimated to be at least 150 other proposed satellite constellations as long as they adopted a similar approach to space operations. “We welcome lots of people to come and join and do this,” he said. “I just want them all to do it safely.”


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Odp: [SpaceNews] OneWeb’s Big Announcement Should Quiet Doubters
« Odpowiedź #22 dnia: Sierpień 10, 2019, 07:13 »
OneWeb disputes Virgin Orbit lawsuit, says LauncherOne is too expensive
by Caleb Henry — August 8, 2019 [SN]

OneWeb says Virgin Orbit's dispute overlooks contract modifications made two years ago. Credit: Virgin Orbit

WASHINGTON — Megaconstellation startup OneWeb asked a court to dismiss a June lawsuit by Virgin Orbit, claiming that it doesn’t accurately portray a 2015 launch contract.

Virgin Orbit, whose LauncherOne small launch vehicle is nearing a maiden flight, sued OneWeb for cancelling in June 2018 all but four of 39 launches it had purchased.

Virgin Orbit asserted that OneWeb owed $46.32 million of a $70 million termination fee.

OneWeb, in an Aug. 5 filing to the District Court of the Southern District of New York, said Virgin Orbit overlooked a 2017 contract amendment allowing earlier launch payments to apply to the fee.

OneWeb said it already paid Virgin Orbit more than $66 million, of which only $18 million went towards launches that are still expected to happen.

“Virgin has received more than $48 million for future launch services that Virgin will no longer need to provide,” OneWeb said.

In its court filing, OneWeb said the $6 million price tag for a LauncherOne mission is two to three times current market prices.

OneWeb told the court that Virgin Orbit’s assessment it would make between $234 million and $832 million conducting launches for OneWeb overstates the value of the contract.

The original contract, OneWeb claims, allowed for termination without cause, and for prior payments to apply to the termination fee. Those contract termination rules, and the fact that Virgin Orbit has yet to conduct any LauncherOne missions, invalidate Virgin Orbit’s revenue expectations, according to OneWeb.

Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne is designed to launch 300 kilograms to a 500-kilometer orbit — enough to potentially carry two OneWeb satellites, depending on the weight of adaptors and supporting equipment.

European launch provider Arianespace launched the first six OneWeb satellites on a Soyuz rocket in February. OneWeb said Aug. 7 it succeeded in bringing its Ku- and Ka-band spectrum into use per International Telecommunication Union rules with those satellites, ensuring spectrum access for the larger constellation.

The majority of OneWeb’s initial 648-satellite constellation is projected to launch on Soyuz rockets 34 to 36 at a time. OneWeb has in the past described Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne as playing a support role while Arianespace Soyuz rockets complete the bulk of its constellation deployment.