OneWeb and SpaceX are using different technologies and have different organizational strategies.
Two companies, OneWeb and SpaceX, are in competition to offer global Internet access and backhaul over constellations of low-earth orbit satellites. SpaceX recently announced that they were ready to begin limited testing and OneWeb CEO Greg Wyler gave a progress report last March.
At the same time, OneWeb announced that five companies had bid on the contract to build their satellites. Airbus has won the contract. They will build 900 150-kilogram satellites, 648 of which will be used in OneWeb's initial, near-polar orbit constellation, as shown in this animated video:
The Airbus announcement raises a lot of questions, that are addressed in a terrific in-depth interview of
Brian Holz, OneWeb’s Director of Space Systems. Holz talks about the reasons for producing the satellites in the US and the factors in choosing a factory location, the cost of the satellites ($4-500,000 each), the need to have global participation in a global project, launch services, satellite reliability and plans for eventually deorbiting them, financing and the business case, the search for manufacturers of millions of user terminals and antennas, etc.
|Brian Holz, OneWeb’s Director of Space Systems|
Holz and CEO Greg Wyler have experience -- they were together at O3b Networks, which is already delivering industrial-scale connectivity using medium-orbit satellites -- and are worthy competitors for Elon Musk's SpaceX effort. While seeking the same goal -- global connectivity -- OneWeb and SpaceX are using different technologies and have different organizational strategies.
SpaceX plans to have around 4,000 smaller, cheaper, shorter-lived satellites orbiting at only 645 kilometers. SpaceX will also keep more of the project in-house than OneWeb. OneWeb is becoming a coordinated coalition of partners. Virgin Galactic, Qualcomm, Honeywell Aerospace and Rockwell Collins are already on board and Airbus will not be a mere supplier, but a partner in a joint venture, which will include others for finance and marketing as well as technology.
Both projects are extremely ambitious, expensive and risky. I don't know which, if either, will "win," but the best possible outcome would be for both to succeed and compete with each other and with terrestrial ISPs.
I worry about the problems of capitalism with its massive concentration of power and income inequality, but this is an example of capitalism at its best.
OneWeb founder Greg Wyler announced that they have received $500 million in funding from a group that includes Airbus and is seeking to raise that much or more in their next round of funding. Previously announced partners Qualcomm (communication technology) and Virgin Glactic (launch services) are also investors.
Their plan will require an estimated $2-2.5 billion, and it does not seem they will have trouble raising it. I'd like a few shares myself :-).
|OneWeb founder Greg Wyler|