OneWeb is gearing up for the initial introduction of its planned mega-constellation of LEO (low Earth orbit) satellites, with the company confirming that it has scheduled a first launch of 34 satellites next week, on Thursday 6th February.
This launch, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, will mark the start of a regular launch campaign during 2020 as the company moves forward with the introduction of its full 648-satellite first phase constellation, one of the largest civilian satellite launch campaigns in history.
OneWeb says that it expects to begin its first customer demos on the network by the end of 2020, and to provide full commercial global services for maritime, and other sectors such as aviation, government and enterprise, in 2021.
The network will provide Ku-band connectivity services to end user terminals, but will communicate with its own terrestrial gateways in the Ka-band.
The initial 34 satellites will be launched aboard a Soyuz vehicle by Arianespace, which will place the satellites into a near polar orbit at an initial altitude of 450 kilometres. From there, the spacecraft will rise to their final orbit of 1,200 kilometres to provide the first live connections in the new communications network.
All of the satellites will be manufactured by OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus Defence and Space.