OneWeb Satellites JV facility in Florida with a blue sky in the background and green grass in the foreground

Airbus works to support Florida JV to sustain OneWeb vision

Rotation

Airbus is working to support its Space Coast-based satellite production joint venture facility “in finding a way through, to ensure that the vision of the OneWeb constellation can be sustained”, after its JV partner OneWeb filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month. OneWeb’s mission was to enable Internet access everywhere, for everyone.

The Exploration Park, Florida-headquartered 50-50 joint venture – largely known as OneWeb Satellites but formally named “Airbus OneWeb Satellites LLC” – laid claim to being the first to employ industrial-scale mass production techniques for satellites, enabling dramatically reduced costs and production times that could deliver two satellites per day.

Referencing the satellite production facility specifically – and not the separate OneWeb satellite operator – Debra Facktor, Head of Airbus US Space Systems, tells RGN:

OneWeb Satellites, the joint venture between Airbus and OneWeb, is going through difficult times with the Chapter 11 filing of OneWeb and the impact of COVID-19 directly on its operations.

This is not an easy situation right now, but we at Airbus are doing all that we can to support OneWeb Satellites in finding a way through, to ensure that the vision of the OneWeb constellation can be sustained.

Airbus is proud of our investments in developing the small satellite industrial base in the US and remains committed to keeping our people safe and healthy and supporting our customers’ missions during this difficult time.

Facktor also serves on the board of the OneWeb Satellites JV, which opened last year and quickly ramped up production. It was to manufacture over 600 satellites in support of the OneWeb program.

Shortly after celebrating the successful third launch of a batch of LEO satellites, London-headquartered OneWeb on 27 March filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New York to execute a sales process. OneWeb blamed the coronavirus pandemic as the reason why it faced difficulty in obtaining funding.

The news came after OneWeb failed to secure new funding from its biggest backer, Japan’s SoftBank. SpaceNews reported that OneWeb laid off 85% of its employees prior to the Chapter 11 filing. In subsequent filings to the bankruptcy court, OneWeb said the OneWeb Satellites JV can produce up to 15 satellites per week.

In addition to its JV with OneWeb, the broader Airbus Group owns 8.5% of the satellite operator.

Asked by RGN if Airbus has any interest in OneWeb’s assets – including spectrum – given that OneWeb is seeking a buyer, a spokesman for Airbus Defence and Space said the company cannot comment on the Chapter 11 process of OneWeb.

“OneWeb is the constellation operator and Airbus has no comment on OneWeb,” he said.

A technician works in the OneWeb Satellites final assembly

The facility is capable of producing up to two satellites every day, or one per assembly line shift. Traditional manufacturers generally take more than a year to build a single satellite. Image: OneWeb Satellites

Related Articles:

1 Comment

  1. Andrew Goetsch

    CIVID-19 didn’t break the company. The ability to burn through $4 billion without having that much to show for it broke them. They spend four times as much to build and launch a sat that’s a forth as capable as the competition’s. (You don’t get to disregard R&D and overly fancy facilities) The Byzantine investment setup and getting so much from a bank that’s also going broke for backing so many questionable projects didn’t help.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *