Satco update: OneWeb launches, SpaceX given green light

OneWeb has announced the successful launch of 34 more satellites, bringing the total number in its constellation to 74. Its full constellation will be around 650 satellites and is due to be in place by the end of 2021.
In the last year, OneWeb has deployed and tested satellites, installed ground stations globally, secured spectrum and developed a range of user terminals. The launch takes OneWeb a step closer to market availability, where it will target aviation and maritime customers, and partner with carriers to provide services in rural and remote areas.
Adrian Steckel, CEO of OneWeb, said: “We are very proud of the progress we have made so far in 2020 and I would like to show the utmost gratitude for the time, effort, and expertise of the OneWeb company, our partners and our people as we come together and support one another.
Meanwhile, SpaceX/Starlink got FCC approval to build and install 1 million ground-based receiving terminals for its broadband satellite system. SpaceX already has FCC approval to launch up to 11,943 LEO satellites which will deliver high speeds and low latencies. To date, it has launched 362 satellites, with another 60 due to be launched in April. The service is scheduled to be available in parts of the US in 2020.
The two companies are part of a digital space race, which includes Jeff Bezos’s Kuiper project. However, the satellite business requires deep pockets – particularly in the early phases which require significant CAPEX investment – with OneWeb having raised £2.6 billion to date. Satco’s are not immune, however, from what’s happening on earth, with OneWeb rumoured to be considering filing for bankruptcy protection, reportedly laying off 10% of its workforce, and commenting that it’s “inevitable” that there will be delays to its launch schedule and satellite manufacturing due to the coronavirus crisis.
Elon Musk says it’s going to cost around $10 billion to launch Starlink’s full constellation. The company is currently seeking another $250 million in its latest round of funding, having raised around $3 billion to date. According to the Wall Street Journal it’s also eyeing part of the $16 billion the FCC has set aside to improve internet service in rural areas, arguing that it should be able to compete with telcos and cablecos for the cash.