OneWeb announces Florida-based satellite production facility
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — Satellite manufacturer OneWeb is thinking about oranges, Sun-drenched beaches, and Disney World… well, sort of. The Channel Islands-based company has inked an agreement with Space Florida that could see as many as 250 high-tech jobs brought to Florida’s Space Coast.
According to a report appearing on Florida Today, some $80 million in capital investment will be brought to bear to bring a satellite production facility to Kennedy Space Center’s Exploration Park. About $36 million of that will be used to construct the factory.
“This new facility is another step in the dream of enabling affordable internet access for the entire globe,” said OneWeb’s Founder Greg Wyler. “These satellites are truly state of the art as we have really pushed, but not exceeded, the limits of technology. With this new facility, we will be able to iterate, update, and continuously improve the satellites design and performance, and being right at the Space Center using Virgin Galactic we will be able to launch new satellites within hours of completion.”
Space Florida attempted to keep a lid on the announcement as long as possible with SpaceFlight Insider receiving an invitation that made it clear it was not for public consumption. However, within just a day or two of the big announcement, it was clear that the cat was out of the bag. Both Florida Today’s James Dean and Reuters’ Irene Klotz posted articles about what was to be announced.
While perhaps disappointing, in the end, the information was the same – Space Florida had racked up yet another win for Florida’s Space Coast. Something much needed after the close of NASA’s Shuttle Program in 2011.
“The announcement of OneWeb’s presence here at Exploration Park is one that perfectly aligns with Space Florida’s vision of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and Florida as the world’s leading space commerce center,” said Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello. “Our ever-expanding commercial space industry at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport will now be home to the most advanced satellite manufacturing capability in the world, and Space Florida looks forward to OneWeb Satellite’s success.”
In September of last year (2015), Space Florida made a huge splash with its announcement that Blue Origin would be launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 36.
In terms of today, however, as they say, this is not that.
While Blue Origin, SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, and NASA might all be launching from the Cape, OneWeb will be performing an entirely different type of work from its new facility. This will require new skill sets, tools, and capabilities that should further enhance the region’s high-tech aura.
“This is an exciting day for OneWeb and brings us one large step closer to our goal of providing affordable broadband to the four billion people yet unconnected to the Internet. Florida and the Space Coast have been very supportive in arriving at a cost effective solution that will allow us to begin deploying our unprecedented constellation starting in 2018,” said OneWeb’s CEO Matt O’Connell.
For OneWeb, this is just the latest, and perhaps most logical, step in its goal of providing internet services to the globe as it would mean that spacecraft completed at this facility would cut out the middle man in terms of traveling to the launch site. OneWeb hopes to field as many as 900 small satellites tasked with providing internet services.
These first 900 production satellites will weigh in at about 331 lbs (150 kg). It is hoped that these spacecraft will provide improved performance over satellites that have been manufactured under traditional methods.
“Florida is an excellent location for our high volume satellite manufacturing facility. The State of Florida and Space Florida really understood our business needs and gave us an outstanding offer to locate in Exploration Park. Our high volume satellite production uses many of the same technologies as aircraft production and Florida has become a center of excellence for both aviation and space-related technologies,” said OneWeb Satellites CEO Brian Holz. We will leverage much of the local aerospace capability expanding opportunity in the Space Coast region, and we also anticipate many of our suppliers to co-locate operations near our facility. The facility will be a big part of our ability to dramatically lower satellite costs for OneWeb and other customers as we grow our business.”
Space Florida joins heavyweights such as Airbus Defence and Space, Virgin Galactic, and Arianespace in contributing to OneWeb’s efforts.
“This facility will create a high-volume satellite manufacturing capability, enabling mass production with dramatically lower cost for the world’s newest communication satellite technology,” said Allan McArtor, Chairman and CEO of Airbus Group, Inc. “As the largest customer of American aerospace exports, Airbus spends over $16.5 billion per year in the U.S., supporting over 260,000 jobs. In addition, we manufacture commercial aircraft and helicopters in the U.S. We will be using our extensive experience in mass aerospace production to support this significant U.S. and global growth opportunity for Airbus.”
Video courtesy of Space Florida
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.