Exclusive: Florida wins
contest for OneWeb satellite manufacturing facility -
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[April 18, 2016]
By Irene Klotz
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - OneWeb
Ltd, a privately owned startup bankrolled by Richard Branson's Virgin
Group and other well-known firms, will build a factory to mass produce
small satellites near NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, two
sources involved in the project told Reuters.
OneWeb plans an initial production run of 900 satellites to provide
global, high-speed Internet access as early as 2019. The
multibillion-dollar network would be more than 10 times larger than
any previous satellite constellation.
Led by founder and chief executive Greg Wyler, a highly regarded
satellite pioneer, OneWeb has raised $500 million from Virgin,
Airbus, India's Bharti Enterprises, chipmaker Qualcomm Inc., Hughes
Network Systems, Intelsat SA, The Coca-Cola Co., and Mexico’s
An official announcement about the factory is scheduled for Tuesday
morning at an industrial park adjacent to NASA's spaceport, where
the plant will be located. A number of localities in Florida and
elsewhere had vied for the project.
The OneWeb venture will also mark the first time satellites are
mass-produced, a potential game-changer in the rapidly evolving
commercial space industry.
Similar projects are under development by Elon Musk’s Space
Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, which last year landed a $1
billion investment by Google Inc and Fidelity Investments for
another space-based Internet constellation.
OneWeb intends to not only manufacture its own spacecraft for
high-speed Internet access, but also sell satellites configured for
other purposes to other companies and organizations.
Europe's Airbus Space and Defense Group, a partner in the project,
has begun manufacturing an initial batch of 10 satellites for OneWeb
at its Toulouse, France, manufacturing facility.
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OneWeb will receive about $20 million in state and county financial
incentives to locate near the Kennedy Space Center in the same
industrial park where Jeff Bezos' space company, Blue Origin, is
building a rocket factory.
Some of OneWeb's satellites will be flown by Branson's space
company, Virgin Galactic, which is developing a low-cost, small
satellite launcher, as well as a suborbital passenger spaceship.
OneWeb also has signed launch contracts with Arianespace for 21
Soyuz rocket flights from the European Space Agency's spaceport in
French New Guinea. Up to 36 OneWeb satellites can fly on a single
(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Mary
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