OneWeb announced on Monday that it is teaming up with Airbus to design and manufacture 900 satellites which will provide high-speed, space-based internet to billions of people worldwide.
“Team Airbus will help us deliver the OneWeb system on time, providing reliable connectivity for our customers,” said Brian Holz, Head of Space Systems at OneWeb.
“We look forward to working with Airbus Defence and Space in order to bring to bear the best resources around the globe for achieving affordable Internet access for everyone.”
The privately owned company based in Britain’s Channel Islands plans to send a constellation of 700 satellites, each weighing less than 150 kg, into low Earth orbits. Half of the satellites will operate at an orbit of 800 kilometres and the other half at an orbit of 950 kilometres. Some 200 satellites will be kept on the ground for backups.
“Teaming with OneWeb with a requirement to produce several small satellites each day has inspired us to develop innovative designs and processes that will dramatically lower the cost in large volumes for high performance space applications,” said François Auque, Head of Space Systems at Airbus Defense and Space.
Airbus will manufacture the first 10 satellites at its facility in Toulouse, France. The remaining satellites will be built at an undisclosed location in the United States, the company said.
According to OneWeb founder and CEO Grey Wyler, the project’s cost will be between $1.5 billion and $2 billion. The company is funded by Virgin Group and chipmaker Qualcom.
Before OneWeb, Wyler worked at Google on another space internet project and co-founded satellite venture O3b Networks. Wyler started his own satellite project, named WorldWu, in 2014, which then became OneWeb.
Some of the satellites built by Airbus will be taken to orbit by Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, which is testing a spacecraft that can fly to orbit and be ready for launch at short notice.