Jersey-based OneWeb is planning to launch a super-constellation of at least 720 satellites in order to deliver broadband access to the world’s underserved communities. But one anxiety – amongst many – is that each satellite has a design life of some 7 years, and in a fleet of 720 craft there are bound to be in-orbit failures. These two elements, that of ‘end of life’ and failure in orbit could easily generate real problems in terms of orbital debris.
Not so, says OneWeb’s fleet operations manager Mike Lindsay. Lindsay, speaking earlier in the week at the Jerusalem International Astronautical Congress, assured delegates that each satellite would be orbited with sufficient fuel on board which would allow the craft to be safely de-orbited from their design height of 1200 kilometres to a lower orbit and then burn up on re-entry through the Earth’s atmosphere.
He also revealed a surprise in saying that each satellite, which would measure some 3.5 metres across when in orbit, would be fitted with a mechanical fixture that would allow the craft to be ‘grabbed’ by future ‘space clearing’ super-satellites.
The first OneWeb satellites are due to be orbited in 2017.