News

OneWeb adds 36 new satellites as it runs contest for next fleet

OneWeb launch 6.jpg

OneWeb has successfully launched its next 36 satellites, increasing its total in orbit to 182 of the final target of 648.

At the same time the company has announced that it is looking for new ideas for its next generation of satellites — the ideas to come from potential industrial partners or potential student or research partners.

This morning’s operation — Sunday evening’s launch for people in American time zones — saw French company Arianespace launch all 36 on a single Russian-designed rocket from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the far east of Russia.

OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson commented: “With this third successful launch in our ‘Five to 50’ programme, we are rapidly building momentum: we are launching more satellites, demonstrating the network, and announcing more distribution signings around the globe. We have a world class team and product, and alongside our supportive shareholders, OneWeb continues to work towards bringing connectivity to everyone, everywhere.”

The company plans to offer service everywhere between the 50th parallel and the Arctic later this year, expanding to global coverage in the middle of next year.

Today’s satellites separated from the rocket and were dispensed in nine batches over a period of 3 hours 52 minutes with signal acquisition on all 36 satellites confirmed.

Masterson added: “These are exciting times at OneWeb as we get ever closer to bringing our connectivity services to some of the world’s hardest to reach places.”

Meanwhile OneWeb said its Innovation Challenge 2021 welcomes engineering, science, and creative talent, research professionals, and subject matter experts from around the world to challenge satellite technology mindsets, drive innovation, and build new business partnership opportunities.

The company asked: “What will be the materials of tomorrow? What technologies will help simplify, again and again, the design, build, or operation of a satellite? Why not a wireless, connector-less satellite?”

It suggested possible topics including “a commercial solution in an automotive, Formula 1, aeronautical, micro-electronics, or materials science industry setting, that could shape our future in space communications”.

Catherine Mealing-Jones, director of growth at the UK Space Agency, said: “As space offers increasingly diverse possibilities for scientific and commercial progress, this challenge is a great way to generate new ideas and invite more individuals and businesses to be a part of our growing industry.”

The deadline for submissions is 17 May, with the shortlist and finalists announced a week later.