Earth's satellite networks are about to get a major upgrade
Earth's satellite networks are about to get a major upgrade. Airbus Group and broadband Internet provider OneWeb have partnered on an ambitious project to develop the world's largest and most powerful satellite constellation by 2019. Estimated to cost at least US$2 billion, the project includes about 900 small low-earth-orbit satellites that together will trump the capacity of existing networks by a factor of 10 and help provide Internet access to underserved areas around the globe.
In order to succeed, the project team will have to integrate various systems, including ground communication networks and existing satellite networks. The range of organizations partnering with Airbus Group and OneWeb signals the project's complexity: Arianespace and Virgin Galactic will spearhead launching satellites; Hughes Network Systems will establish the ground network; and Intelsat will collaborate with OneWeb to integrate its current satellite network with the new constellation and achieve maximum Internet access.
The project aims to produce several satellites a day, for about US$500,000 each—far faster and cheaper than current satellite production methods, The Guardian reported in June.
“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,” François Auque, head of space systems for Airbus Defense and Space, said in a statement. “This partnership is a fantastic new chapter in our space story.” —Ben Schaefer
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