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OneWeb adds another 36 to fleet

July 2, 2021

By Chris Forrester

A successful launch by an Arianespace Soyuz rocket placed 36 OneWeb broadband-by-satellite craft into orbit on July 1st.

The launch, OneWeb Flight 8, from the Russian Far East cosmodrome at Vostochny was a complete success. Launch was at 12.48 UTC.

The launch means that initial OneWeb connectivity to the planet’s norther latitudes can commence shortly helped by a fleet size now of 254 craft. This fleet size is enough to start services this autumn.

Sunil Mittal, founder and chairman at Bharti Enterprises, speaking on CNBC’s Squawk on the Street segment on June 30th, and addressing the extra $500 million that Bharti is putting into OneWeb, said that there were other investors “knocking very hard” on the company’s doors; “But remember we are now fully funded, and with no debt. We are secure and set to do exactly what we want to do.”

Mittel was asked how OneWeb was managing to keep costs down when compared to Elon Musk’s recent comments that it might take $20 billion-$30 billion to achieve its constellation. Mittal said the fundamental difference was one of satellite orbits, commenting: “We are at 1200 kms. Elon’s are at 450 kms. The closer you [are] to the Earth the more satellites you need and it is a very long margin. Our 648 satellites [compare with] Elon needs 6000-7000 just to do the same job.”

He added that Bharti, operating over 17 countries with terrestrial coverage, achieved this coverage with more than 250,000 cell-sites and towers. Mittel said: “With just 648 satellites which are our towers in space, we cover the whole globe. It makes a very powerful proposition. We could never achieve this with conventional terrestrial coverage. This coverage, when extended to maritime and aircraft and overall a considerable interest in what we are doing.”

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