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posted by Fnord666 on Friday June 30 2017, @09:22PM   Printer-friendly
from the but-can-you-use-it-to-navigate? dept.

European aerospace giant Airbus and its partner, OneWeb, have begun the production of a satellite mega-constellation. The network will comprise at least 600 spacecraft in the first instance, but could eventually encompass more than 2,000. The aim is to deliver broadband links from orbit to every corner of the globe. In particular, the project wants every school to have a connection.

Building so large a constellation requires a step-change in the manufacture of satellites - especially for Airbus. It can take Europe's biggest space company many months and hundreds of millions of dollars to build some of today's specialist platforms. But for the OneWeb venture, it is all about high volume and low cost. That means new assembly line methods akin to those in factories producing cars and planes. The idea is to turn out three units per shift at well less than a million dollars a piece. The boss of Airbus, Tom Enders, concedes he initially thought the OneWeb concept to be fantasy. "Everything in space as you know traditionally has been 'gold-plated'; it had to work perfectly, [and have] the most expensive materials, etc. "Here, we've had to go other ways, to be really commercial and calculating according to the target cost because that is very decisive in the whole business case for OneWeb," he told BBC News.

[...] The establishment of the OneWeb constellation requires the greatest rocket campaign in the history of spaceflight. More than 20 Soyuz vehicles have been booked to throw clusters of 32-36 satellites into a web some 1,200km above the Earth. There should be just under 300 on station by the end of 2020, the start of 2021; more than 600 about a year or so later; and then over 800 by the middle of the decade.

OneWeb and Airbus are not the only companies planning a mega-constellation in the sky. SpaceX, Boeing, ViaSat and others have all sought regulatory approval. But not everyone will succeed in getting the necessary multi-billion-dollar financing, and Airbus believes the OneWeb concept has first-mover advantage.

BBC News

additional coverage:

previous story:
Competing Communications Constellations Considered


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 30 2017, @11:14PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 30 2017, @11:14PM (#533751)

    1200 low satilites. Then toss in all the crisp from bolts and nuts to brown slush (ryhms with flush). Bird strikes are bad enough but...