In the space Internet arena, not only Elon Musk’s SpaceX, but rival OneWeb has also entered a high-frequency launch period.
Soyuz Carrier Rocket at the Baikonur Space launch
At 2:42 a.m. local time on February 7, 34 satellites of the British communications company OneWeb flew on the Soyuz carrier rocket at the Baikonur space launch site in Kazakhstan. The number of OneWeb LEO satellites has increased to 40, and the next 34 satellites are scheduled to launch in March.
Each satellite weighed 150 kilograms, and 34 satellites entered orbits with an initial height of 450 kilometers, and finally rose to an orbit height of 1,200 kilometers. OneWeb said that this marked the start of its regular launch operation in 2020, with the first phase of 648 satellites to be deployed quickly. By 2021, these satellites will provide global commercial services for maritime, aviation, government, and business.
Founded in 2012, OneWeb is a global communications company that first proposed the low-orbit satellite Internet constellation plan to build high-speed and low-latency network connections.
The plan will eventually achieve global coverage of more than 1980 satellites. The first stage is to complete the deployment of 648 satellites in 2021. These satellites are distributed in 12 orbits, each with 49 orbits, and a total of 588 satellites. At the same time, an additional 5 satellites are reserved in each orbit for a total of 648 satellites.
Launched the first 6 satellites on Web
In February 2019, OneWeb launched the first 6 satellites. These satellites have all acquired signals and demonstrated 400 Mbps of broadband access and 32 milliseconds of delay in experiments. OneWeb CEO Adrian Steckel said that compared to broadband at home, it has almost reached the same level.
That launch marked OneWeb’s transition from proof-of-concept to commercialization, and it also heralded the start of a large-scale satellite launch. However, the second batch of satellites originally scheduled for launch last December was initially postponed to January this year. OneWeb plans to launch basically once a month from then on, with 32 or 34 satellites depending on the situation, to achieve global service in the fourth quarter of 2021.
In the end, the launch was scheduled for early February. Adrian Steckel said this is the first of 10 launches performed by OneWeb this year. The next batch of 34 satellites will be launched from Baikonur in March, after which OneWeb plans to rest for a month to upgrade the satellite components. After this break, OneWeb plans to launch a batch of satellites in May and June, respectively, after which it may change the pace of monthly launches.
ESA, launching Satellites.
Adrian Steckel said that they plan to launch 17 or 18 Soyuz rockets in cooperation with Arianespace, plus the first flight of the new generation rocket Ariane 6 developed by ESA, launching a total of 588 satellites.
After these launches, OneWeb will continue to pause for a period of time as they decide when to launch 60 spare satellites and complete the first phase of deployment of 648 satellites. In the second phase, OneWeb will make predictions based on satellite coverage in the first phase, focusing on areas where higher network service capabilities are needed.
To build the Internet of Space, OneWeb is not the only company with this ambition on a global scale.
Most noticeable is Musk’s SpaceX. Since the first batch of 60 satellites was launched in May last year, and the large-scale deployment of the “Star Chain” program began, SpaceX has sent 4 batches of 240 satellites to the sky, becoming the world’s largest number of deployed satellite companies. These satellites have to reach an orbit height of about 290 kilometers, and then use their own thrusters to rise to 550 kilometers orbit.
Amazon has planned 3,236 satellites for its space internet project, Project Kuiper. These satellites will be deployed in three different low-Earth orbits to provide broadband services in areas without the internet. However, Amazon has not launched so far.
Telesat, a long-established Canadian communications satellite company, has proposed the Telesat LEO project for low-Earth orbit satellite networks. These satellites are within 1,000 kilometers of the ground. Telesat is expected to launch 298 satellites to cover Canada and the world and begin to provide services by 2022. In January 2018, Telesat successfully launched the first phase of its LEO satellite.
“The world is huge, and the demand for data is endless. This will not be a ‘winner-take-all’ game.” Adrian Steckel believes that the huge demand for satellite network systems cannot be met by a single company. “I think competition is definitely a good thing. It can provide differentiated pricing and services