SEATTLE/PARIS (Reuters) – A rocket carrying six satellites built by Airbus SE and partner OneWeb was due to blast off from French Guiana on Wednesday, the first step in a plan to give millions of people in remote and rural areas access to high-speed internet beamed down from space.
A successful launch could mark a new era in the satellite services industry, with companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX, LeoSat Enterprises, and Canada’s Telesat enabling data networks with hundreds or even thousands of tiny satellites that orbit closer to Earth than traditional communications satellites – a radical shift made possible by leaps in laser technology and computer chips.
Launch - Boom - Demand - Services - Handful
The launch may presage a boom in demand for launch services, with a handful of venture-backed rocket companies developing smaller boosters to deploy the smaller satellites at lower cost.
“We are looking in the next five years at potentially 10,000 satellites needing to be launched and we don’t have the launch capacity at this moment to do that,” aerospace consultancy Teal Group analyst Marco Caceres said.
Soyuz - Rocket - Liftoff - Kourou - Guiana
The Russia-built Soyuz rocket was set for liftoff from Kourou, French Guiana, at 6:37 p.m. (2137 GMT), carrying satellites made by the Airbus-OneWeb joint venture called OneWeb Satellites in Toulouse, France.
OneWeb and others aim to expand the availability and speed of satellite-based internet compared to existing providers such as Hughes Network Systems, whose network is in a higher-altitude geostationary orbit. Hughes is also an investor in OneWeb and helping to build out its ground infrastructure.
OneWeb - Investors - Airbus - Coca-Cola - Virgin
OneWeb has raised more than $2 billion from investors including Airbus, Coca-Cola, Virgin Group, Qualcomm Inc and SoftBank. It aims to have global broadband coverage in 2021 from about 650 satellites.
OneWeb plans to begin launching more than 30 satellites at a time every month starting as early as September so its constellation is nearly 25 percent complete...
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