UK-US OneWeb Venture to Increase Global Connectivity

An engineer works inside of OneWeb’s satellite production facility. (Credit: OneWeb)
  • Joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus sees satellite manufacturing facility open in Florida helping to revitalise Florida’s Space Coast with 250 new high-tech jobs and 3,000 indirect jobs through the supply chain
  • Department for International Trade celebrates 1 year of the Space Exports Strategy
  • In 2015, American companies represented nearly half of all FDI in the UK space sector—roughly £5.1bn of £12bn

EXPLORATION PARK, Fla. (UK Department of International Trade PR) — Today (July 22) UK-based OneWeb, the communications company powered by satellites, announced the opening of OneWeb Satellites, the first-ever, high-volume satellite manufacturing facility on Merritt Island, Florida, as part of a joint venture with Airbus. It comes just after the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing.

The venture will produce the satellites to enable the deployment and operation of a constellation of an initial 650 satellites by OneWeb in low-earth orbit satellites providing global high-speed internet access. The 105,500 square foot production facility has two production lines that can produce two satellites a day and is helping the revitalisation of Florida’s Space Coast with 250 new high-tech jobs and 3,000 indirect jobs through the supply chain.

The venture is part of growing collaboration between the US and UK space sectors. It follows OneWeb’s location of its headquarters to London in 2017 and the creation of more than 150 new jobs through the expansion of its Global Operations Centre in White City, London. The UK Space Agency has also invested £18 million in OneWeb to aid the development of its 650-satellite constellation.

For Airbus, the Florida facility is the latest step in the company’s continued and long-standing growth in US manufacturing, job creation and investment. Airbus uses 450 US suppliers in 40+ states and spent more than $187 billion in the US since 1990. Airbus spending in the US supports more than 275,000 American jobs.

Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for North America, Antony Phillipson said:

“OneWeb’s new Florida venture demonstrates the potential for greater UK and US collaboration in the space sector, increasing our capabilities in satellite infrastructure and strengthening our regional economies. OneWeb’s expansion of their London Headquarters also shows their commitment to the UK, which has been home to its global headquarters since 2017. I am delighted that this will provide additional support for OneWeb to manage, monitor and control its satellite network from a single location in the UK. I wish them the very best of luck and we stand ready to offer any assistance necessary as they grow their global operations.”

Adrian Steckel, CEO of OneWeb said:

“This is a defining moment in the history of OneWeb, and the space industry. In today’s opening, we offer a pathway to the stars.

“With our first satellites from OneWeb Satellites already launched and exceeding performance expectations, this facility will ensure we can begin delivering global connectivity in some areas as early as next year and globally in 2021. It’s another step closer to connecting the unconnected all over the world to high speed, low latency internet connections”

With this also comes the 1-year anniversary of the Department for International Trade’s Space Exports Strategy and of the first grants awarded through the Industrial Strategy to establish small satellite launch from UK spaceports, involving US companies Lockheed Martin and Virgin Orbit. The UK government has also announced a new National Space Council, similar to the US approach, to provide strategic leadership across government on the investment and use of space.

This also coincides with the anniversary of the first Moon landing and the agreement signed last week by NASA and the UK Space Agency, paving the way for commercial UK satellite communication and navigation services to be used by future NASA lunar missions. The UK has a long history in growing the world’s space capabilities, and was the third country to operate a satellite in orbit – Ariel 1 which was built jointly by the UK and US at the NASA Goddard Flight Centre in Washington DC.

The UK space sector currently generates an income of £14.8 billion, with £5.5 billion of exports, and employs 42,000 people across the country.