Would-be global satellite broadband supplier OneWeb has reportedly laid off 10 per cent of its workforce amidst reported – but unconfirmed – plans that include Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The news comes as OneWeb reported the successful orbiting of 34 satellites from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 21st on a Soyuz rocket organised by Arianespace. The success means that OneWeb now has 74 craft in Low Earth Orbit.
Referring to the layoffs, a company statement says: “The OneWeb launch is going ahead on Saturday with more launches planned later in the year; however, like others, we are impacted by the global health and economic crisis and we need to dynamically adjust our workforce. Unfortunately, we think it is inevitable that there will be delays to our launch schedule and satellite manufacturing due to increasing travel restrictions and the disruption of supply chains globally. Therefore, we made the difficult decision to eliminate some roles and responsibilities as we work to focus on core operations. We are sorry to have had to take this step and we’re doing everything we can to support those affected.”
There are at least four key OneWeb locations. Officially the company is domiciled in West London, although it also has management offices in Mountain View, California and near Washington DC (in McLean Virginia). It has a satellite manufacturing joint-venture with Airbus in Florida, near the Kennedy Space Centre. Staff at any of these locations might be affected.
After Saturday’s launch, OneWeb focused on the positive news. In a statement CEO Adrian Steckel said: “In these unprecedented times following the global outbreak of Covid-19, people around the world find themselves trying to continue their lives and work online. We see the need for OneWeb, greater now more than ever before.”
“High-quality connectivity is the lifeline to enabling people to work, continue their education, stay up to date on important healthcare information and stay meaningfully connected to one another. The crisis has demonstrated the imperative need for connectivity everywhere and has exposed urgent shortcomings in many organizations’ connectivity capabilities. Our satellite network is poised to fill in many of these critical gaps in the global communications infrastructure,” he added.