OneWeb’s Florida Factory: 15 Satellites per week

By : |April 22, 2016 0

Richard Branson’s Virgin Group backed Satellite Internet Startup OneWeb Ltd plans to manufacture 15 satellites per week at a designated factory in Florida as part of its push to provide global high-speed Internet access.

Company officials say that they aim to supply Internet services worldwide through a fleet of 700 or more satellites they expect to be in orbit and operating by the end of 2019. Construction of the Florida factory has not yet begun and OneWeb did not say when manufacturing would start.

This Tuesday, it unveiled the factory’s location near Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, two days after Reuters reported it.The first group of 10 satellites is being built at partner Airbus’ Toulouse, France facility.

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A communications satellite typically takes four to five months to assemble, but “We’re going to build one in an eight-hour shift,” said Brian Holz, chief executive of OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture of OneWeb and Europe’s Airbus Group’s Defense and Space. Though he did not give out much detail but said the factory would be highly automated.

The startup plans to hire 250 engineers to work at the state-financed, robotics-intensive facility to be located in an industrial park next door to where Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin is building a rocket factory.

OneWebcould also build satellites for other companies and agencies, including the U.S. military and Nasa, said OneWeb founder Greg Wyler, a well-known communications satellite industry executive. He said the initial run of satellites would be 900 to provide for spares.

According to Wyler, region’s aerospace and engineering workforce and about $20 million in financial incentives from the state and county, were key to the company’s decision on where to base the 100,000 square foot plant.

Space Florida, a state-backed space economic development agency plans to spend about $80 million to build and equip the factory which will then be leased to OneWeb, Space Florida President Frank DiBello said in an interview.

OneWeb has already raised $500 million in an initial round of financing for its venture from a group of companies including Virgin Group, Airbus, India’s Bharti Enterprises, chipmaker Qualcomm Inc, Hughes Network Systems, Intelsat, Coca-Cola Co and Mexico’s Totalplay.

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