Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Net Congestion

A Virgin Galactic LauncherOne promotional film. Video source: Video Galactic YouTube channel.

Florida Today reported on February 4 that a Space Florida proposal code-named “Project Sabal” is actually a company called OneWeb that intends to build a space Internet.

OneWeb is a joint venture funded by Virgin Group and Qualcomm, among other investors. Over 600 satellites would be deployed around the globe to create the “OneWeb Constellation.” Members of the Board of Directors include Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson, Qualcomm Executive Chairman Paul Jacobs, and Airbus Group CEO Thomas Enders, among others.

According to the OneWeb web site, the constellation would be comprised of “micro satellites” that will “ logically interlock with each other to create a coverage footprint over the entire planet.” The Florida Today article states that each satellite would weigh about 330 pounds.

OneWeb announced in June 2015 that it had contracted with Arianespace to launch up to 21 missions on the Russian Soyuz. OneWeb also announced an agreement with Virgin Galactic for 39 satellite launches on Virgin's proposed LauncherOne, a booster mounted on a 747 aircraft.

OneWeb also announced that day that Airbus Defence and Space had partnered with OneWeb to build the satellites. OneWeb founder Greg Wyler said the constellation would be operational by 2019.

A June 2015 statement by OneWeb founder/CEO Greg Wyler. Video source: Airbus Defence and Space YouTube channel.

The company has been looking for a location to build the satellites. According to a February 3 Wall Street Journal article, OneWeb had narrowed down its site to Florida, but did not disclose where.

The Florida Today report, if accurate, places the manufacturing site here in the Space Coast.

That would imply that many of the deployments might launch from Kennedy Space Center.

In October 2015, NASA announced contract awards to three companies under a new program called Venture Class Launch Services. The idea is to provide small satellite launch companies contracts for demonstration missions to prove their viability.

One of the companies was Virgin Galactic, which received $4.7 million for a LauncherOne demonstration flight reportedly at the Mojave Air & Space Port. If the satellites are manufactured here, then it would make sense to launch them from here as well.

In 2014, Kennedy Space Center remodeled the Launch Control Center's Firing Room 4 to support commercial launch users. A new Pad 39C could be used by Venture Class vertical launch companies, with the former Space Shuttle runway available for horizontal launch companies such as Virgin Galactic. In June 2015, Space Florida signed an agreement to manage the KSC runway, hoping to attract horizontal launch companies.

In January 2015, SpaceX announced its own intentions to build a space Internet, with funding from Google and Fidelity. The SpaceX constellation would feature about 4,000 satellites, according to media reports.

A June 2015 OneWeb Constellation promotional film. Video source: Airbus Defence and Space YouTube channel.

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