Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook is working on a satellite Internet project designed to provide broadband access around the globe, Wired reports.
The emails show that the social network wants to launch Athena, its very own internet satellite, in early 2019. The new device is designed to “efficiently provide broadband access to unserved and underserved areas throughout the world,” according to an application the social network appears to have filed with the FCC under the name PointView Tech LLC.
With the filing, Facebook joins Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Softbank-backed OneWeb, two well-funded organizations working on similar projects. In fact, SpaceX launched the first two of what it hopes will be thousands of its Starlink satellites just this past February.
The emails, which date back to July 2016, and subsequent confirmation from Facebook, confirm a story published in May by IEEE Spectrum, which used public records to speculate that Facebook had started a satellite internet project.
The new emails detail meetings between FCC officials and lawyers from a firm Facebook appears to have hired, which specializes in representing clients before government agencies. In one exchange from 2016, a lawyer from the firm requests to meet with FCC officials in the Office of Engineering & Technology and the International Bureau Satellite Division to discuss applying for an experimental license to construct and operate a “small LEO [low Earth orbit] satellite system with a limited duration mission.” The emails indicate that Facebook also set up subsequent meetings with the FCC in June and December of 2017.
The draft environmental assessment for SpaceX’s proposed expansion at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) also revealed that Elon Musk’s rocket company plans to most of more than 4,000 satellites of its planned Starlink constellation from Cape Canaveral.
That will guarantee a busy schedule for SpaceX’s Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at KSC and LC-40 at the adjoining Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS). LC-39A can accommodate Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters while LC-40 is configured for the Falcon 9.
An emerging manufacturing hub for satellites and rockets near Kennedy Space Center is already getting a boost from a new player called EarthNow that is planning to build many more satellites there.
A startup based in Seattle, EarthNow says it will use OneWeb’s new plant on Merritt Island to build a network of several hundred camera satellites to monitor the Earth “in real time.”
OneWeb, which has yet to start production at the plant, plans to build at least 900 satellites for its space-based global communication network.
To imagine EarthNow, picture Google maps or similar satellite photos – but with the ability to see what the world looks like live and potentially check on whether strange vehicles are parked on your property or whether any forest fires are breaking out nearby.
BARCELONA, February 26, 2018 (OneWeb PR) –Airbus, Delta, OneWeb, Sprint, and Bharti Airtel (“Airtel”) announce the formation of the Seamless Air Alliance – which will usher in a new era of innovation for airlines on all routes. By empowering member mobile operators to extend their services into airline cabins, the Seamless Air Alliance will allow them to continuously provide their customers – via satellite technology – with the same high speed, low latency connectivity from ground, to air and back again. It will also significantly reduce costs for everyone involved while creating a smooth, positive user-experience.
SpaceX is set to launch two spacecraft next week that will demonstration technologies for providing fast global broadband services through a constellation of 12,000 satellites.
Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b spacecraft will hitch a ride aboard a Falcon 9 booster whose primary payload is the Paz synthetic aperture radar satellite. The launch has been rescheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 21 at 6:17 a.m. PST ( 9:17 a.m. EST; 1417 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
WASHINGTON, February 14, 2018 (FCC PR) —Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai today proposed that the agency approve an application by Space Exploration Holdings, doing business as SpaceX, to provide broadband services using satellite technologies in the United States and on a global basis. Chairman Pai issued the following statement:
“To bridge America’s digital divide, we’ll have to use innovative technologies. SpaceX’s application—along with those of other satellite companies seeking licenses or access to the U.S. market for non-geostationary satellite orbit systems—involves one such innovation. Satellite technology can help reach Americans who live in rural or hard-to-serve places where fiber optic cables and cell towers do not reach. And it can offer more competition where terrestrial Internet access is already available.
“Following careful review of this application by our International Bureau’s excellent satellite engineering experts, I have asked my colleagues to join me in supporting this application and moving to unleash the power of satellite constellations to provide high-speed Internet to rural Americans. If adopted, it would be the first approval given to an American-based company to provide broadband services using a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellite technologies.”
Over the past year, the FCC has approved requests by OneWeb, Space Norway, and Telesat to access the United States market to provide broadband services using satellite technology that holds promise to expand Internet access in remote and rural areas across the country. These approvals are the first of their kind for a new generation of large, non-geostationary satellite orbit, fixed-satellite service systems, and the Commission continues to process other, similar requests.
EVRY, France 9 (Arianespace PR) — The past year saw Arianespace carry out 11 successful launches; sign 19 additional launch contracts, including three for Vega C and two for Ariane 6; and enter a new governance structure alongside ArianeGroup.
Building on these achievements, Arianespace is targeting a record number of launches in 2018, while actively focusing on the next decade with its Ariane 6 and Vega C launchers. (more…)
Some good news for satellite Internet company OneWeb:
Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. has agreed to invest roughly $500 million more in satellite broadband provider OneWeb Ltd., according to a person familiar with the details, boosting the U.S. startup’s plan to offer significantly faster internet connections world-wide than most traditional systems, either space-based or terrestrial.
The latest commitment would boost SoftBank’s total investment in the project to about $1.5 billion, even as Greg Wyler, OneWeb’s founder and executive chairman, disclosed over the weekend that his company already is designing and seeking suppliers for a more powerful new generation of satellites. He said those eventually are slated to deliver ultra-high-speed connectivity, including across rural or developing regions, approximately as fast as typical fiber optic networks.
The precise size and structure of SoftBank’s additional investment could change, said the person familiar with the details and others close to the talks. But Mr. Wyler and SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son, they said, agreed in principle on the cash infusion during recent discussions, with the caveat that SoftBank’s stake in OneWeb would remain less than 50%.
Work on OneWeb’s previously announced initial fleet of more than 700 small, low-altitude satellites is “generally on schedule” for launches beginning next year, starting to market service over Alaska in 2019 and expanding virtually around the globe by the end of 2020, according to Mr. Wyler. During a weekend interview, he also said deployment of roughly 900 second-generation, higher-orbiting satellites by the mid-2020s—intended to create the first such large-scale, hybrid constellation on orbit—is projected to increase speeds roughly fivefold to 2.5 gigabits per second.
GERMANTOWN, Md., November 7, 2017 (Hughes PR) —Hughes Network Systems, LLC (Hughes), the global leader in broadband satellite solutions and services, today announced that it has signed a contract for $190M with OneWeb for the production of a ground network system, supporting OneWeb’s constellation of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites in its mission to bring affordable broadband service to millions of households, schools and other end users around the world.
This contract builds on the original system development agreement between the companies signed in June 2015, bringing the total value of both to over $300M. It includes production of the gateway sites each with multiple tracking satellite access points to support operation and handoff of high-speed user traffic between satellites.
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (OneWeb PR) – In a ceremony witnessed by H.E the Minister Eng. Abdulla Al-Sawaha and Sir Richard Branson, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) and OneWeb have signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on the development of solutions in 2020 which should help to connect 237,000 homes throughout the country bringing much needed affordable, high-speed, low latency broadband access to those living in rural and remote areas.
This MOU comes within the efforts of MCIT to extend all the Kingdom’s areas of high-speed internet and to enhance the infrastructure of communications and data networks, in line with the National Transformation Plan aiming to reach high-speed Internet for the vast majority of rural and remote areas by 2020.
Testimony of Greg Wyler Founder and Executive Chairman, Worldu Satellites Limited (OneWeb)
Before Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Technology Oct. 25, 2017
This is a great time to discuss our progress as we are investing over $4 billion to build the world’s first large scale satellite constellation, and will begin launching our fleet in the coming months.
253 Russell Senate Office Building October 25, 2017 10 a.m.
U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled, “The Commercial Satellite Industry: What’s Up and What’s on the Horizon,” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 25, 2017. The hearing will examine commercial satellite services and next-generation satellite services affecting consumers.
– Ms. Patricia Cooper, Vice President of Satellite Government Affairs, SpaceX – Mr. Mark Dankberg, Chief Executive Officer, ViaSat – Mr. Stephen Spengler, Chief Executive Officer, Intelsat – Mr. Greg Wyler, Founder and Executive Chairman, OneWeb
Wednesday, October 25, 2017 10:00 a.m. Full committee
This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
Paris, Washington D.C., Montreal, Yokohama, October 11, 2017 – According to the 20th edition of the report Satellites to be Built & Launched, Euroconsult anticipates that 300 satellites with a mass over 50 kg will be launched on average each year by 2026 for government agencies and commercial organizations worldwide. This is a threefold increase over the past decade as the satellite market experiences a paradigm shift with the rise of small satellites and mega constellations, such as that of OneWeb.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (CSF PR) – The Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) has elected new Officers for the 2017-2018 year, and approved two new Associate member companies at its bi-annual Executive Board of Directors, held last month in Tucson, Arizona.
Dr. Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute was elected for a second term as the Chairman of the Board of Directors. Stern is the Associate Vice President of the Southwest Research Institute’s (SwRI) Space Science and Engineering Division in Boulder, Colorado and the Chief Science Officer of World View, based in Tucson, Arizona.
Bryce Space and Technology has produced a new report, Start-up Space: Update on Investment in Commercial Space Ventures.
Below is the executive summary. You can also download the full report.
The Start-Up Space series examines space investment in the 21st century and analyzes investment trends, focusing on investors in new companies that have acquired private financing. Space is continuing to attract increased attention in Silicon Valley and in investment communities world-wide. Space ventures now appeal to investors because new, lower-cost systems are envisioned to follow the path terrestrial tech has profitably traveled: dropping system costs and massively increasing user bases for new products, especially new data products. Large valuations and exits are demonstrating the potential for high returns. (more…)