Airbus & OneWeb to kick off new satellite

OneWeb is about to launch its first internet satellites to connect the unconnected

Watch OneWeb launch its first 5G satellites into space at 4:37PM ET

A rocket carrying six satellites built by Airbus SE and partner OneWeb blasted off from French Guiana on Wednesday, the first step in a plan to give millions of people in remote and rural areas high-speed internet beamed down from space.

"If we get six out of six working, that will be incredible", OneWeb founder Greg Wyler said, according to a Bloomberg article. The rocket lifted off successfully from Kourou, on the coast of French Guiana. The satellites left the rocket in two batches and "s$3 ignal acquisition has been confirmed for all six satellites", the company said.

OneWeb plans to begin launching more than 30 satellites at a time every month starting as early as September so its constellation is almost 25 percent complete by year-end, a person with direct knowledge of the project said.

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A person with direct knowledge of the program said SpaceX was driving toward a first "production launch" with money-making satellites in the middle of this year.

OneWeb, which manufactures satellites through its joint venture with Airbus, will announce on 27February the launch of its first six satellites.

Unlike traditional communications satellites, which are about the size of a school bus and sit in geosynchronous orbits about 22,300 miles above the Earth, OneWeb's refrigerator-sized craft are circling the planet only about 750 miles up. Obviously, that won't happen given OneWeb's latest projections.

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Virgin Group founder and billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson said OneWeb's launch gives them a multiyear market advantage over principal competitor Elon Musk's SpaceX, though enough people lack internet globally to support both constellations.

Son's Softbank Group, Branson's Virgin Group and other investors have supplied OneWeb with about $2 billion in backing so far, as the startup races against rivals large and small to offer much faster Internet connections from satellites than are available now.

Separately, OneWeb has contracted with Intermatica, global carrier and solution provider of broadband and VOIP telecommunications services for businesses in Europe.

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OneWeb says its satellites will have operational orbits of about 1,200km and that each satellite will weigh less than 150kg. We are delighted to be working with OneWeb who will provide us with the high-speed broadband coverage for the Quika service, which we need to reach all our customers, removing geographic, speed and latency barriers. The company does not sell directly to the end user, but works with various partner companies, the Service can be ordered.

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