OneWeb loses the support of its main investor
OneWeb has already raised $3.4 billion and launched 74 satellites. However, the company has just announced its bankruptcy. The OneWeb’s satellite constellation still needed several billion additional dollars to be operational, but its main investor SoftBank decided to stop financing the project.
Difficult to find new funding during the COVID-19 crisis
During the COVID-19 crisis, it is very difficult to find money from other organizations. OneWeb is therefore the first New Space company to go bankrupt because of the pandemic that is currently affecting the planet, and there will probably be others. This bankruptcy generates a lot of impacts, and not only for its own business.
OneWeb bankruptcy has many impacts on the space industry
OneWeb immediately announced the dismissal of 85% of its employees, but what will become of the 74 satellites that are already in orbit? There is still a risk of collision and the satellites must therefore be managed.
The announcement of the bankruptcy of OneWeb also impacts Arianespace, which was to take care of the satellite launches. Twenty-one Soyuz rocket launches have been planned, and only three have taken place so far. OneWeb was also Ariane 6‘s first customer. If all these orders are canceled, the launch schedule for the European company is likely to be seriously disrupted.
The project could however restart
However, it is possible that OneWeb or another company may resume operations. This has already happened after bankruptcy, for example with Firefly Aerospace. The presence of satellites in space, a production chain and launch contracts could make it possible to quickly revive the activity, on condition of injecting funding. But it’s a risky bet because the global economy is almost on hold due to the coronavirus epidemic.
OneWeb plans to put 2,000 satellites in orbit
– News of June 6, 2019 –
The satellites used by OneWeb are a little lighter than those of SpaceX, they weigh 150 kg. This satellite constellation will also be much smaller. So far, OneWeb plans to put into orbit 600 satellites and 48 rescue satellites placed directly in orbit. Their number could reach 2000 satellites in the future. Communications will go through the Ku band and ground users will have to use a small antenna.
The propulsion of OneWeb satellites is electric but unlike Starlink, OneWeb will use xenon. Satellites carry enough propellant to provide a delta V of 800 meters per second, which is enough to reach their orbit, stay at the same altitude for 5 to 7 years and then desorbit.
OneWeb does not have its own satellite launch company unlike Starlink. The company has signed contracts with Arianespace and Virgin Orbit to deploy its satellite constellation.
Once the 600 satellites in orbit, OneWeb hopes to provide a 100 megabits per second internet connexion, which is enough to watch videos on YouTube for example.
Image by OneWeb