OneWeb to bring satellite manufacturing back to UK

OneWeb to bring satellite manufacturing back to UK

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

OneWeb, part owned by the UK government after a $500m investment, built its first generation of satellites in a joint venture with Airbus in Florida. The rescue from bankruptcy in 2020 raised the issue of the manufacturing supply chain.

“By 2024-25 we will be building in the UK,” said Chris McLaughlin, head of government affairs at OneWeb in a session with the UK parliament’s science and technology committee.

“We are now in the process of looking at a $3bn investment in gen 2 [satellite designs]. The intention is to build gen 2 and the associated technology in the UK,” he said. This is set to include resiliant timing technology for navigation services, rather than providing satellite navigation signals he says. 

The company expects to have the satellite broadband network operating in the next few months.

“By the middle of next year we will have delivered an entire global network of approximately 588 satellites, plus spares,” said McLaughlin. “We are currently at 358 satellites in space. We are launching another 34 on 27 December. Our service is already covering the whole of the United Kingdom, and we have just begun beta testing in Alaska, Canada and the UK. We would anticipate being able to offer initial commercial services going into the early part of 2022. It is an enormously fast turnaround from where we were in March last year.”

This follows a deal with Kymeta to develop a user terminal with an electronically steered flat panel antenna for the OneWeb LEO network.

Under the joint agreement, engineering teams from both OneWeb and Kymeta will collaborate to ensure the u8 terminal meets the technical specifications required for compatibility with the OneWeb network.

The two previously collaborated on a pilot program to successfully test and demonstrate a LEO-GEO capable land flat-panel user terminal in Toulouse, France. The two companies aim to launch their new solution into the market for purchase by the third quarter of 2022.;

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