Airbus Space & Defence is already involved in an $85 million joint-venture with would-be satellite operator OneWeb to build a satellite manufacturing factory at Port Canaveral, in Florida. The plan is to shortly start building the first of an initial 900 satellites for the SoftBank-backed OneWeb project to girdle the planet with a new constellation of broadband craft.
The facility should be in operation this autumn and turning out around 2-3 satellites per day. OneWeb has an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to authorise another 1200 satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), and taking its planned constellation to a total of 1980 craft in orbit, plus spares.
OneWeb has an additional request in with the FCC for an additional 1280 satellites which will work in a Mid-Earth Orbit (MEO).
It is likely that the Airbus/OneWeb factory in Florida will build all of these satellites, but the company also has a ‘Plan B’ which is to win US military contracts for small satellites.
The USA’s influential Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is known to be planning a military suite of LEO satellites under its Blackjack program.
DARPA is reported to be planning to award contracts worth $117.5 million as early as August.
Airbus is on record as saying that its initial plans for Florida call for 10 satellites a week to be turned out on conventional eight-hour workdays, but this production rate could be increased if outside orders start to flow.