RUAG Space Kicks Off Production at New Florida Facility

OneWeb Founder Greg Wyler and RUAG Space CEO Peter Guggenbach. (Credit: RUAG Space)

TITUSVILLE, Fla. (RUAG Space PR) — RUAG Space, a leading product supplier to the space industry, held a celebratory reception last night, marking the commencement of full production capabilities in its Titusville, Florida facility. Production is set to begin, with the first delivery batches foreseen in approximately 1.5 months. Embracing state-of-the-art machinery and automated processes, this new facility aligns with the industry’s ambition toward cheaper access to space.

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Intelsat, OneWeb Announce Conditional Combination Agreement

Luxembourg, Jersey, and Tokyo, Japan, February 28, 2017 (Intelsat PR) — Intelsat (NYSE: I) and OneWeb today announced that they have entered into a definitive combination agreement pursuant to which Intelsat and OneWeb will merge in a share-for-share transaction. Intelsat and SoftBank Group Corp. (“SoftBank”) also entered into a definitive share purchase agreement pursuant to which SoftBank will invest $1.7 billion in newly issued common and preferred shares of the combined company. Both the merger and the SoftBank investment are subject to, among other conditions, successful completion of debt exchange offers to certain existing Intelsat bondholders as well as receipt of certain regulatory approvals.

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The Year Ahead in Space

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)
Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

It’s going to be busy year in space in 2017. Here’s a look at what we can expect over the next 12 months.

A New Direction for NASA?

NASA’s focus under the Obama Administration has been to try to commercialize Earth orbit while creating a foundation that would allow the space agency to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s.

Whether Mars will remain a priority under the incoming Trump Administration remains to be seen. There is a possibility Trump will refocus the space agency on lunar missions instead.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), who is currently viewed as a leading candidate for NASA administrator, has written two blog posts focused on the importance of exploring the moon and developing its resources. Of course, whether Bridenstine will get NASA’s top job is unclear at this time.

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OneWeb Hires Airbus Veteran as CEO

OneWeb constellation. (Credit: Airbus Defence & Space)
OneWeb constellation. (Credit: Airbus Defence & Space)

LONDON, 26 July 2016 (OneWeb PR) — OneWeb which is building a new global communications system to create affordable broadband services for all, announces the appointment of Eric Beranger as Chief Executive Officer.

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LauncherOne’s Long & Winding Road to Orbit: A Timeline

LauncherOne stage separation. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
LauncherOne stage separation. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

If the current schedule holds, Virgin Galactic’s revamped LauncherOne program will enter commercial service sometime in 2018 after roughly a decade of development. During that period, the program has been redefined several times, lost two of the key people hired to lead it, and changed its launch platform from WhiteKnightTwo to a jumbo jet. The estimates for the initial flight tests also have slipped by about  four years from 2013 to 2017.

Below is a timeline of the program’s major events, milestones, announcements, hires and departures, and other things. Feel free to let me know if I’ve missed anything significant.

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One Web Announces $500 Million Funding Round, Launch Contracts for Soyuz, LauncherOne

OneWeb constellation. (Credit: Airbus Defence & Space)
OneWeb constellation. (Credit: Airbus Defence & Space)

Highlights

  • OneWeb announces $500 million funding round for 900 satellite constellation
  • Backers include Airbus Group, Coca-Cola, Intelsat, Qualcomm, Hughes Network Systems and Virgin Galactic
  • Largest commercial rocket order ever includes 21 Soyuz launchers and 39 launches of Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne

LONDON (OneWeb PR) — OneWeb, which is building a new global communications system to create affordable broadband services for all, today announces it has raised $500 million of funding from a group of leading international companies.

OneWeb has attracted investment from Airbus Group, Bharti Enterprises, Hughes Network Systems, (Hughes), a subsidiary of EchoStar Corp., Intelsat, Qualcomm Incorporated, The Coca-Cola Company, the Virgin Group, and Totalplay, a Grupo Salinas Company, owned by Ricardo B. Salinas.

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Musk to Go Head-to-Head With OneWeb to Provide Global Internet Services

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)
Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk held an invite-only event last night in Seattle to unveil his plan to deliver global Internet services via satellite. The event was closed to media, but he did describe the program in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek.

The plan involves launching a constellation of hundreds of satellites that would orbit 750 miles above the Earth. The spacecraft would provide direct, high-speed communications to any location on the planet and reach billions of people currently unable to access the Internet.

“Our focus is on creating a global communications system that would be larger than anything that has been talked about to date,” Musk told Bloomberg Businessweek ahead of the announcement.

The plan is similar to a $2 billion initiative announced earlier this week by Greg Wyler. The company, OneWeb, is beingt backed by the Virgin Group and Qualcomm.

Musk and Wyler have known each other for years. Musk, in fact, used to crash at Wyler’s guest house in Atherton, Calif. While there are major similarities between the two ventures, Musk says he’ll have an edge through SpaceX’s smarts and manufacturing techniques. “Greg and I have a fundamental disagreement about the architecture,” Musk says. “We want a satellite that is an order of magnitude more sophisticated than what Greg wants. I think there should be two competing systems.”

Musk used last night’s event to formally announce the opening of an engineering center in the Seattle area. The new center will initially recruite about 60 employees, with plans to expand to as many as 1,000 within three to four years. Employees will work on SpaceX’s satellite network, Falcon rockets and Dragon spacecraft, Musk said.

OneWeb to Provide Internet Services Worldwide

Greg Wyler
Greg Wyler

STUART, Fla., Jan. 15, 2015 (OneWeb PR) — WorldVu Satellites Limited, operating as OneWeb, Ltd, today announced plans to build, launch and operate a low-earth-orbit satellite constellation to help bring high-speed Internet and telephony to billions of people around the world. Qualcomm Incorporated and The Virgin Group have been announced as initial investors, with Qualcomm Executive Chairman Dr. Paul Jacobs and Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson to join OneWeb founder Greg Wyler on the company’s board of directors. Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed. OneWeb plans to bring in additional investors to fund construction, launch and operation of its system.

According to the International Telecommunications Union, as of the end of 2014, more than half the world’s population lacks Internet access. OneWeb, founded in 2012 under the name WorldVu, hopes to bring high-speed Internet and telephony to people living in underserved areas. The OneWeb satellite system introduces the first-ever telecom-class micro satellites. This projected fleet of 648 micro satellites is intended to provide low-latency, high-speed Internet access directly to small user terminals deployed around the world.

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Branson Announces Virgin Involvement in OneWeb Satellite Effort

Artist's conception of WhiteKnightTwo with LauncherOne (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
Artist’s conception of WhiteKnightTwo with LauncherOne (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

STUART, Fla., January 15, 2015 (Virgin Group PR) — Writing in his blog today, Sir Richard Branson announced plans to launch the world’s largest ever satellite constellation.

Delighted to share news of an incredibly exciting project that could transform the world: we are creating a new constellation of satellites to make high speed internet and telephony available to billions of people who don’t currently have access.

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Broadband Satellite Constellation Obtains Financing From Virgin Group, Qualcomm

Greg Wyler
Greg Wyler

OneWeb Ltd., formerly known known as WorldVu Satellites Ltd., has received financing from Virgin Group and to launch a constellation of 650 satellites to provide global broadband coverage, according to media reports. Space News reports on the company led by Greg Wyler:

The OneWeb network is currently designed as some 650 125-kilogram satellites operating at 1,200 kilometers in altitude, each capable of delivering at least 8 gigabits per second of throughput to provide Internet access to homes and mobile platforms.

Based in Britain’s Channel Islands, OneWeb has begun work on user terminals whose antennas — combining mechanical steering and a phased-array antenna — would measure 36 centimeters by 16 centimeters. They would provide Internet access at 50 megabits per second.

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WorldVu Satellites Issues RFP for 640 Satellites

Greg Wyler
Greg Wyler

It looks like Greg Wyler and WorldVu are moving forward on its global broadband plan:

WorldVu Satellites Ltd., which has secured regulatory approval for the use of Ku-band spectrum in a non-geostationary-orbit constellation of hundreds of satellites for a global broadband Internet service, has issued requests for bids to satellite manufacturers for 640 125-kilogram satellites, industry officials said.

The system, which has been variously described as affiliated with Google and more recently with Space Exploration Technologies Corp. founder Elon Musk, is estimated to cost about $1.5 billion, including launch, for satellites that would each have 14 gigabits per second of throughput and orbit at 1,200 kilometers in altitude. The satellites would have a design life of seven years or more.

One official said the bid request asks for responses by mid-December and features a requirement that the prospective manufacturers agree to creating a joint-venture company in which WorldVu would co-own the satellite production facility.

“The idea behind this is that the way people build satellites today is not the way they should be built tomorrow,” this official said. “It’s true that the [profit] margins in the satellite manufacturing business stink. But there is a value in having full control of the design so that iterations could be made throughout the manufacturing process.”

Space News has the full story.

Musk Looks to Launch Large Constellation of Broadband Satellites

The Wall Street Journal has more on the story:

Mr. Musk is working with Greg Wyler, a satellite-industry veteran and former Google Inc. executive, these people said. Mr. Wyler founded WorldVu Satellites Ltd., which controls a large block of radio spectrum.

In talks with industry executives, Messrs. Musk and Wyler have discussed launching around 700 satellites, each weighing less than 250 pounds, the people said. That is about half the size of the smallest communications satellites now in commercial use. The satellite constellation would be 10 times the size of the largest current fleet, managed by Iridium Communications Inc.

To be sure, the venture would face large financial, technical and regulatory hurdles, and industry officials estimate that it would cost $1 billion or more to develop the project. The people familiar with the matter cautioned the venture is in its formative stages, and Mr. Musk’s participation isn’t certain.

Messrs. Musk and Wyler are considering building a factory to make satellites, the people said. One of the people said initial talks have been held with state officials in Florida and Colorado about locating the factory.

In addition to Mr. Musk, WorldVu is seeking a satellite industry partner to lend expertise to the project, this person said.