In June 2015, Airbus announced that they are going to team up with satellite internet startup OneWeb Ltd to build the world’s largest satellite constellation, consisting of 900 small internet satellites. The first ten OneWeb satellites will be carried out at Airbus Defense and Space’s facilities in Toulouse, while series production will take place at a dedicated plant located in the United States. The company said each of the satellites is expected to weigh less than 150 kg (330 lb.) at launch, with the global satellite internet constellation to start launching in 2018.
François Auque, Head of Space Systems at Airbus Defense and Space, is excited to work with up and coming OneWeb. He said in a statement: “Teaming with OneWeb with a requirement to produce several small satellites each day has inspired us to develop innovative designs and processes that will dramatically lower the cost in large volumes for high-performance space applications. Without doubt, this program is challenging but we’re ready for it because we have leveraged resources and expertise across the entire Airbus Group.” According to Airbus officials, combining the division’s long history of building and launching space systems with the innovation and mass manufacturing techniques borrowed from the Airbus A350 production side of the company will give the team a huge advantage in delivering the OneWeb system.
Brian Holz, Head of Space Systems at OneWeb, is also looking forward to the partnership. He said in a statement: “We look forward to working with Airbus Defense and Space in order to bring to bear the best resources around the globe for achieving affordable Internet access for everyone.” Airbus was chosen over Thales Alenia Space, Space Systems/Loral, Lockheed Martin Space Systems and OHB of Germany to win the partnership. Back in May, Airbus Group CEO Tom Enders said, “We can make an attractive proposition. We build hundreds of airplanes every year. Why wouldn’t we be able to also build hundreds of satellites?” The OneWeb startup is funded in part by Virgin Group and chip-maker Qualcomm.
Headquartered in Toulouse, France, Airbus Group is a European multinational aerospace and defense corporation that manufactures aircraft parts as well as civil airliners. Airbus was originally formed as the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS), but in January of 2014 was reorganized as Airbus Group combining the divisions for development and marketing of civil and military aircraft, as well as communications systems, missiles, space rockets, helicopters, satellites, and related systems.
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