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OneWeb and its Airbus production partner are putting the finishing touches to their satellite production line in Toulouse, France, and due to open for business on June 27th when the first ‘pilot’ satellite is expected to start its journey down the line on schedule for completion in October.
OneWeb, however, has quite a way to go. It is planning to launch a total of 2900 satellites, and almost 900 in the first scheme, and due to start launching in 2018.
The first satellites are definitely part of OneWeb’s (and Airbus’s) learning curve in terms of production. Wyler says they will be stripped down and re-assembled in order to test and perfect the production process. After the first pair of pre-production satellites are completed the Toulouse then the priority is to build a batch of 10 ready for launch (on an Arianespace Soyuz rocket) and to prove the technology.
Greg Wyler, OneWeb’s founder, is on record as saying that he is concentrating on preparing for these initial milestones. OneWeb is also building its own satellite-building plant in Florida, where the bulk of the satellites will be built. The $85 million Florida factory – a joint venture with Airbus – was started in March at a NASA-owned Exploration Park, and where there will eventually be some 3000 jobs (directly and in support functions) created in order to turn out OneWeb’s satellites at a rate of some 15 a week.