With SpaceX and ISRO contracts signed, OneWeb will soon be ready to resume launches of its low earth orbit satellites. Under the revised plan the launches will extend into 2023, as the company works to complete its satellite constellation and establish its global footprint.
OneWeb CTO Massimiliano Ladovaz recently confirmed that 2022 will see two more launches. This will allow for significant expansion of the company’s coverage area. But it will take “three more early net year” to reach the planned global coverage footprint.
Even after those three in early 2023, more launches are likely required. The constellation currently has 428 satellites in orbit. The OneWeb architecture calls for 588 (140 more) to deliver the desired connectivity. with another 60 planned for in-orbit spares. Orbiting 160 satellites on the five launches is consistent with the 34-36 per launch realized on the previous Soyuz missions.
VP Mobility Ben Griffin recently suggested to PaxEx.Aero that “elements of the aviation network will be online by late 2023” but full global coverage is not expected until early 2024. The revised launch timing further cements this timeline. Aero and mobility operations typically trails enterprise and terrestrial services by several months.
Growing the distribution network
The launch gap of 6+ months and program extension into 2023 is hardly a surprise, given the need to shift away from Soyuz rockets. But it also is not slowing OneWeb’s progress in securing distribution agreements and testing terminal hardware.
Some markets, including the lucrative North Atlantic, could be online by 2023 for early adopters, assuming the on-board gear is ready. Satcom Direct does not expect its QEST ESA antenna and terminal to be commercially available until 2024.
The company also recently announced deals with Gogo and Satcom Direct to cover the business aviation market. And with the Aircraft Interiors Expo coming next week, all eyes will be on OneWeb to announce its commercial aviation partnerships during that event. There aren’t too many Ku-band connectivity providers, so the obvious candidates for those partnerships are obvious.
More on OneWeb’s latest developments:
- Stellar Blu successfully demonstrates in-flight LEO connectivity
- OneWeb, Satcom Direct, QEST team for BizAv internet offering
- Gogo, OneWeb team for BizAv satellite service
- Hughes shows off flat panel antenna for OneWeb service
- OneWeb secures launch plan with SpaceX, capacity deal with Speedcast
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