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OneWeb launches its first space-based Internet satellites

2019-02-28 16:39 by
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The first batch of satellites for OneWeb's enormous new global satellite internet constellation were sent to space on Wednesday, using an Arianespace Soyuz rocket. They were launched from French Guiana.

The six satellites launched to a 1,000-kilometer orbit, where they will begin a 60- to 90-day test regime that includes orbit raising for another 200 kilometers. OneWeb originally planned to launch the satellites directly into their 1,200-kilometer operational orbits, but tweaked those plans sometime before the launch for reasons that were not immediately clear.

The satellites will provide data connections to mobile phones, laptops and tablets through ground terminals marketed by the company, which it expects to bring online as soon as 2020.

"No matter if you're in a car or you're walking or you're in a plane, from the point of view of our satellites, you're essentially standing still," Adrian Steckel, OneWeb's CEO, tells The Verge. "And it's handing off your signal from one satellite to another."

The new satellites are smaller, cheaper and faster at delivering data than older satellite internet models from operators such as ViaSat Inc. and Inmarsat Plc. OneWeb says it can build the units at a rate of two a day for less than a 10th of the cost of a traditional system. The older satellites also orbit at about 18,500 miles versus about 750 miles for OneWeb's machines, which should help OneWeb deliver data more quickly.

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