OneWeb Satellites has launched its assembly line in Toulouse, the beating heart of Airbus’ manufacturing expertise, to begin end-to-end validation, testing, and integration of its first satellites set for launch in just over nine months.
OneWeb Satellites is a joint venture between OneWeb, a global communications company whose mission is to provide affordable Internet access to everyone on Earth, and Airbus Defence and Space with its first order to include the production of 900 communications satellites for OneWeb’s low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite fleet. The 4,600 square meters Toulouse facility will serve to validate the production methods necessary to manufacture high-performance satellites at a scale never achieved before, de-risk any potential issues, and lay the framework for the larger multi-line OneWeb Satellites factory near the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The initial 10 pilot and Toulouse-built satellites, after having undergone a comprehensive set of tests, will become the first of OneWeb’s fleet.
Benefitting from the industrial and space expertise at Airbus, this assembly line will include state-of-the-art automation, test equipment and data acquisition capabilities to shorten assembly times and provide means to analyze factory performance and process improvements. These satellites will provide valuable in-orbit data to confirm the design of the spacecraft and proceed with fine tune adjustments if necessary. They will also enable nearly real-time detection and correction of any anomalies in the manufacturing process.
“We have just about nine months until the first of our fleet launches into orbit,” said Greg Wyler, Founder and Chairman of OneWeb. “Then, if all goes well, we will begin the world’s largest launch campaign, sending new satellites up every 21 days, and building not just a fleet but a digital bridge to enable affordable broadband access for the billions of unconnected around the world.”
As well as building the fleet of satellites, OneWeb Satellites will provide customized versions of these ultra-high performance satellites, platforms and core technologies to Airbus to support their third party sales to other commercial and government operators globally. The mini-satellites, coming from the huge production line, will enable new cost and performance paradigms for those looking to benefit from the advantages satellites can bring to Earth observation, sensor and telecommunications markets.
“Providing global internet access with the OneWeb satellites is a daring mission, which we’re very excited to be a part of”, said Tom Enders, CEO of Airbus. “Airbus thrives on innovation and innovation is at the core of this joint endeavor with OneWeb. Never before have high quality satellites been produced at such little cost, at such a fast pace and in such high quantities. As such, OneWeb is truly a transformational project – not just for Airbus but for the space industry as a whole.”
The development of this facility has been supported by Bpifrance in the framework of the French PIA programme (Programme d’Investissements d’Avenir).