OneWeb Satellites — the joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus Defence and Space, officially created in January — has selected Florida as the location for its future high-volume satellite manufacturing facility. The $85m factory will be built in Exploration Park, next to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. It is scheduled to open in 2017, with delivery of initial satellites later that year or early in the following year.
A prototype production line at Airbus Defence and Space in Toulouse (France) will assemble and test the first 10 satellites, and check and validate industrial solutions for series production. The design of the satellites is currently under way in the company’s design offices in Toulouse.
The space segment of OneWeb will comprise initially a constellation of 648 operational satellites and replacement satellites, all of which will be identical. Each satellite will weigh approximately 150 kg and will operate in low Earth orbit. Arianespace and Virgin Galactic will begin launching the spacecraft in 2018 and the satellites will be placed in orbit using electrical propulsion.
The factory will be built in partnership with the State of Florida and Space Florida and is anticipated to create nearly 250 direct jobs. The 100,000ft2 facility will be the industry’s first satellite factory designed to mass-produce spacecraft using automated assembly and test capabilities.
The first 900 satellites will be used primarily by OneWeb for its global internet services, but OneWeb notes they will be available for other commercial satellite operators and government customers.