Airbus to build giant internet satellite network

Airbus has been contracted to build the world’s largest satellite constellation. The company will produce 900 spacecraft for OneWeb, a British Channel Islands-registered concern that aims to broaden internet access to the underserved. More than 600 satellites will initially be launched, with the rest held as spares.
The deal was announced at the Paris Airshow. The multi-billion-dollar OneWeb constellation will dwarf any previous commercial network in the sky by a factor of 10. And it will represent an immense challenge for Airbus, which traditionally has made some of the world’s highest specification and most expensive telecommunications platforms.
In contrast, its workflow for OneWeb will have to be high volume at an extremely low cost. Each satellite is expected to be about 150kg is size, and OneWeb was reportedly looking for a price per unit of less than half a million dollars. Airbus says it will make the first 10 spacecraft at its Toulouse manufacturing facility before shifting work to a dedicated plant in the United States.
Many rockets will be required to get the constellation in orbit, and that is likely to involve Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. As well as being heavily involved with the OneWeb project, Sir Richard is also developing a satellite launch system based on his tourist spaceplane. Airbus would not give a formal interview at the airshow but issued a statement from its head of space systems. “This partnership is a fantastic new chapter in our space story,” said François Auque.