Amazon Constellation Sends Number of Planned Communications Satellites Soaring Above 20,000

F6 satellite (Credit: OneWeb)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Jeff Bezos’ Amazon has jumped into a crowded field of companies seeking to provide high-speed broadband, data and other communications services to the entire globe.

Amazon’s Kuiper constellation of 3,236 satellites brings the total number of spacecraft in the 16 announced systems to 20,241 spacecraft. The competition includes SpaceX, Boeing, Telesat, SES and government-backed companies in China and Russia.

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Wyler-backed Tarana Secures $88 Million Financing with Khosla Ventures, EchoStar Corp., and 1010 Holdings, LLC.

Greg Wyler of OneWeb

Former EchoStar EVP joins Tarana as President

Investment enables completion of Tarana’s revolutionary solution for fixed wireless broadband access.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (Tarana Wireless) — Tarana Wireless Inc. today announced a $60 million financing with Khosla Ventures and EchoStar Corporation, as a follow-on to financing of $28m led by 1010 Holdings, LLC, the family offices of Greg Wyler. In conjunction with the financing, EchoStar Chairman Charlie Ergen, Khosla Ventures partner Samir Kaul, and Greg Wyler, Chairman of OneWeb, have joined Tarana’s board of directors. Kranti Kilaru recently stepped down from his role as EVP at EchoStar to join Tarana’s leadership team as President.

With total financing of nearly $200 million, Tarana has created a new class of radio technology with unprecedented immunity to obstructions, interference, changing conditions, and spectrum scarcity. Tarana’s fixed wireless access technology will drive a tenfold improvement in the network economics of gigabit broadband access at massive scale.

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EarthNow to Deliver Real-Time Video Via Large Satellite Constellation

Greg Wyler of OneWeb

BELLEVUE, Wash. (EarthNow PR) — EarthNow LLC announces intent to deploy a large constellation of advanced imaging satellites that will deliver real-time, continuous video of almost anywhere on Earth. The latest company to spin-out from Intellectual Ventures, EarthNow recently closed a first round of financing with investments from Airbus, the SoftBank Group, Bill Gates, and Greg Wyler. The initial funding focuses primarily on maturing the overall system design to deliver innovative and unique real-time Earth observation services.

According to EarthNow’s founder and CEO, Russell Hannigan, “EarthNow is ambitious and unprecedented, but our objective is simple; we want to connect you visually with Earth in real-time. We believe the ability to see and understand the Earth live and unfiltered will help all of us better appreciate and ultimately care for our one and only home.”

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SoftBank to Invest $500 Million More in OneWeb

Some good news for satellite Internet company OneWeb:

Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. has agreed to invest roughly $500 million more in satellite broadband provider OneWeb Ltd., according to a person familiar with the details, boosting the U.S. startup’s plan to offer significantly faster internet connections world-wide than most traditional systems, either space-based or terrestrial.

The latest commitment would boost SoftBank’s total investment in the project to about $1.5 billion, even as Greg Wyler, OneWeb’s founder and executive chairman, disclosed over the weekend that his company already is designing and seeking suppliers for a more powerful new generation of satellites. He said those eventually are slated to deliver ultra-high-speed connectivity, including across rural or developing regions, approximately as fast as typical fiber optic networks.

The precise size and structure of SoftBank’s additional investment could change, said the person familiar with the details and others close to the talks. But Mr. Wyler and SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son, they said, agreed in principle on the cash infusion during recent discussions, with the caveat that SoftBank’s stake in OneWeb would remain less than 50%.

Work on OneWeb’s previously announced initial fleet of more than 700 small, low-altitude satellites is “generally on schedule” for launches beginning next year, starting to market service over Alaska in 2019 and expanding virtually around the globe by the end of 2020, according to Mr. Wyler. During a weekend interview, he also said deployment of roughly 900 second-generation, higher-orbiting satellites by the mid-2020s—intended to create the first such large-scale, hybrid constellation on orbit—is projected to increase speeds roughly fivefold to 2.5 gigabits per second.

OneWeb, Saudi Arabia Sign MOU on Satellite Internet

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (OneWeb PR) – In a ceremony witnessed by H.E the Minister Eng. Abdulla Al-Sawaha and Sir Richard Branson, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) and OneWeb have signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on the development of solutions in 2020 which should help to connect 237,000 homes throughout the country bringing much needed affordable, high-speed, low latency broadband access to those living in rural and remote areas.

This MOU comes within the efforts of MCIT to extend all the Kingdom’s areas of high-speed internet and to enhance the infrastructure of communications and data networks, in line with the National Transformation Plan aiming to reach high-speed Internet for the vast majority of rural and remote areas by 2020.

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Wyler: OneWeb to Launch First Satellites in May

Planned OneWeb production facility in Exploration Park, Fla. (Credit: OneWeb)

Testimony of Greg Wyler
Founder and Executive Chairman,
Worldu Satellites Limited (OneWeb)

Before Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Technology
Oct. 25, 2017

Selected Excerpts

This is a great time to discuss our progress as we are investing over $4 billion to build the world’s first large scale satellite constellation, and will begin launching our fleet in the coming months.

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RUAG Space Kicks Off Production at New Florida Facility

OneWeb Founder Greg Wyler and RUAG Space CEO Peter Guggenbach. (Credit: RUAG Space)

TITUSVILLE, Fla. (RUAG Space PR) — RUAG Space, a leading product supplier to the space industry, held a celebratory reception last night, marking the commencement of full production capabilities in its Titusville, Florida facility. Production is set to begin, with the first delivery batches foreseen in approximately 1.5 months. Embracing state-of-the-art machinery and automated processes, this new facility aligns with the industry’s ambition toward cheaper access to space.

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Intelsat, OneWeb Announce Conditional Combination Agreement

Luxembourg, Jersey, and Tokyo, Japan, February 28, 2017 (Intelsat PR) — Intelsat (NYSE: I) and OneWeb today announced that they have entered into a definitive combination agreement pursuant to which Intelsat and OneWeb will merge in a share-for-share transaction. Intelsat and SoftBank Group Corp. (“SoftBank”) also entered into a definitive share purchase agreement pursuant to which SoftBank will invest $1.7 billion in newly issued common and preferred shares of the combined company. Both the merger and the SoftBank investment are subject to, among other conditions, successful completion of debt exchange offers to certain existing Intelsat bondholders as well as receipt of certain regulatory approvals.

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The Year Ahead in Space

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)
Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

It’s going to be busy year in space in 2017. Here’s a look at what we can expect over the next 12 months.

A New Direction for NASA?

NASA’s focus under the Obama Administration has been to try to commercialize Earth orbit while creating a foundation that would allow the space agency to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s.

Whether Mars will remain a priority under the incoming Trump Administration remains to be seen. There is a possibility Trump will refocus the space agency on lunar missions instead.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), who is currently viewed as a leading candidate for NASA administrator, has written two blog posts focused on the importance of exploring the moon and developing its resources. Of course, whether Bridenstine will get NASA’s top job is unclear at this time.

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OneWeb Hires Airbus Veteran as CEO

OneWeb constellation. (Credit: Airbus Defence & Space)
OneWeb constellation. (Credit: Airbus Defence & Space)

LONDON, 26 July 2016 (OneWeb PR) — OneWeb which is building a new global communications system to create affordable broadband services for all, announces the appointment of Eric Beranger as Chief Executive Officer.

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LauncherOne’s Long & Winding Road to Orbit: A Timeline

LauncherOne stage separation. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
LauncherOne stage separation. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

If the current schedule holds, Virgin Galactic’s revamped LauncherOne program will enter commercial service sometime in 2018 after roughly a decade of development. During that period, the program has been redefined several times, lost two of the key people hired to lead it, and changed its launch platform from WhiteKnightTwo to a jumbo jet. The estimates for the initial flight tests also have slipped by about  four years from 2013 to 2017.

Below is a timeline of the program’s major events, milestones, announcements, hires and departures, and other things. Feel free to let me know if I’ve missed anything significant.

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One Web Announces $500 Million Funding Round, Launch Contracts for Soyuz, LauncherOne

OneWeb constellation. (Credit: Airbus Defence & Space)
OneWeb constellation. (Credit: Airbus Defence & Space)

Highlights

  • OneWeb announces $500 million funding round for 900 satellite constellation
  • Backers include Airbus Group, Coca-Cola, Intelsat, Qualcomm, Hughes Network Systems and Virgin Galactic
  • Largest commercial rocket order ever includes 21 Soyuz launchers and 39 launches of Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne

LONDON (OneWeb PR) — OneWeb, which is building a new global communications system to create affordable broadband services for all, today announces it has raised $500 million of funding from a group of leading international companies.

OneWeb has attracted investment from Airbus Group, Bharti Enterprises, Hughes Network Systems, (Hughes), a subsidiary of EchoStar Corp., Intelsat, Qualcomm Incorporated, The Coca-Cola Company, the Virgin Group, and Totalplay, a Grupo Salinas Company, owned by Ricardo B. Salinas.

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Musk to Go Head-to-Head With OneWeb to Provide Global Internet Services

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)
Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk held an invite-only event last night in Seattle to unveil his plan to deliver global Internet services via satellite. The event was closed to media, but he did describe the program in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek.

The plan involves launching a constellation of hundreds of satellites that would orbit 750 miles above the Earth. The spacecraft would provide direct, high-speed communications to any location on the planet and reach billions of people currently unable to access the Internet.

“Our focus is on creating a global communications system that would be larger than anything that has been talked about to date,” Musk told Bloomberg Businessweek ahead of the announcement.

The plan is similar to a $2 billion initiative announced earlier this week by Greg Wyler. The company, OneWeb, is beingt backed by the Virgin Group and Qualcomm.

Musk and Wyler have known each other for years. Musk, in fact, used to crash at Wyler’s guest house in Atherton, Calif. While there are major similarities between the two ventures, Musk says he’ll have an edge through SpaceX’s smarts and manufacturing techniques. “Greg and I have a fundamental disagreement about the architecture,” Musk says. “We want a satellite that is an order of magnitude more sophisticated than what Greg wants. I think there should be two competing systems.”

Musk used last night’s event to formally announce the opening of an engineering center in the Seattle area. The new center will initially recruite about 60 employees, with plans to expand to as many as 1,000 within three to four years. Employees will work on SpaceX’s satellite network, Falcon rockets and Dragon spacecraft, Musk said.

OneWeb to Provide Internet Services Worldwide

Greg Wyler
Greg Wyler

STUART, Fla., Jan. 15, 2015 (OneWeb PR) — WorldVu Satellites Limited, operating as OneWeb, Ltd, today announced plans to build, launch and operate a low-earth-orbit satellite constellation to help bring high-speed Internet and telephony to billions of people around the world. Qualcomm Incorporated and The Virgin Group have been announced as initial investors, with Qualcomm Executive Chairman Dr. Paul Jacobs and Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson to join OneWeb founder Greg Wyler on the company’s board of directors. Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed. OneWeb plans to bring in additional investors to fund construction, launch and operation of its system.

According to the International Telecommunications Union, as of the end of 2014, more than half the world’s population lacks Internet access. OneWeb, founded in 2012 under the name WorldVu, hopes to bring high-speed Internet and telephony to people living in underserved areas. The OneWeb satellite system introduces the first-ever telecom-class micro satellites. This projected fleet of 648 micro satellites is intended to provide low-latency, high-speed Internet access directly to small user terminals deployed around the world.

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Branson Announces Virgin Involvement in OneWeb Satellite Effort

Artist's conception of WhiteKnightTwo with LauncherOne (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
Artist’s conception of WhiteKnightTwo with LauncherOne (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

STUART, Fla., January 15, 2015 (Virgin Group PR) — Writing in his blog today, Sir Richard Branson announced plans to launch the world’s largest ever satellite constellation.

Delighted to share news of an incredibly exciting project that could transform the world: we are creating a new constellation of satellites to make high speed internet and telephony available to billions of people who don’t currently have access.

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