LEO Launch Schedules

SpaceX is launching 12,000 satellites, which can provide low latency “fiber-like broadband” to rural users around the globe. Initial Starlink service is projected to start in the Northern US by mid-summer, with full US coverage by the end of 2020. SpaceX has launched 120 Starlink satellites, with 60 more planned in December. SpaceX is planning two launches per month in 2020, adding capacity and customers with each new launch. By January 2021, the Starlink constellation will have 1610 satellites in orbit, providing high-speed broadband services to customers.

OneWeb, SpaceX’s nearest competitor, has launched six satellites, with more planned in 2020, starting in February, then again in October and November. Each launch will insert 32 more satellites in orbit. OneWeb is not expected to begin service until they have 350 satellites on orbit.

Screen Shot 2019-12-04 at 2.03.00 PM
Red dates indicate satellites launched, blue scheduled launches.

Russian Soyuz-ST to Launch OneWeb Communications Satellites in 2020 [Update 12-8-19]

Three launches of the Russian Soyuz-ST carrier rocket, including with the UK OneWeb communications satellites, from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou are planned for next year, a space industry source told Sputnik.

“In 2020, three launches of the Soyuz-ST are planned from the Guiana Space Centre,” the source said on Tuesday, adding that the launches are planned for the months of February, October and November.

Update: First launch of UK’s OneWeb satellites from Baikonur now set for 30 January.

In November 2020, over 30 OneWeb communications satellites should be launched into orbit, the space industry source told Sputnik.

Last month, OneWeb announced that the launching of its satellites on Russia’s Soyuz rocket were being postponed until next year.

In June 2015, Russian space agency Roscosmos signed contracts with OneWeb and the French Arianespace company for 21 commercial launches – from the European Space Agency’s Kourou spaceport in French Guiana, the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan, and the Vostochny spaceport in the Russian Far East.

Source: Space Daily

Comment:  According to some sources each Soyuz launch should carry 32 satellites into orbit, other sources 30.   In November 2020 OneWeb could have a constellation of over 90 satellites, perhaps as many as 102 (6+32+32+32).  The February launch should give us a clue as to the number of birds per launch vehicle.  By November SpaceX should have 0ver 1,500 Starlinks in orbit, given the aggressive two launches per month schedule for 2020.


Where were the Real Innovators?

Satellite Innovation Symposium has become the most important West Coast event for satellite professionals who follow the evolving technologies and market opportunities related to satellites and space.

Here is what the conference attendees were saying about the LEO companies, according to Wendy Lewis writing in SatMagazine:

How the proposed constellations of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites will impact the industry remains a key question.

There were multiple discussions about the potential for OneWeb, Project Kuiper, Starlink, Telesat LEO, LeoSat and others to succeed and speculation on which might merge with others and which might be left on the drawing board.

Continue reading HERE.

I would like to have overheard some of those conversations and discussions.  If the LEO operates as planned they are going to be taking customers from these MEO and GEO satellite communications innovators. LEOs have a latency advantage they can exploit, with no way for the MEO and GEO systems to match.

The LEO broadband companies are the leading edge innovators, yet they did not exhibit or present at the Symposium “the most important West Coast event for satellite professionals.” Why?  SpaceX is going to launch more satellites than all MEO and GEO sats ever launched. Is SpaceX too busy Innovating to go to conferences where they spend hours talking about innovation?

The Sponsors & Exhibitors are HERE.  Any insight from readers? 

OneWeb 2019 Launch Delayed to 2020

Space Daily has the details

First launch of UK OneWeb communications satellites from Baikonur postponed

The first launch of UK communications satellites OneWeb from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome was initially supposed to take place on 19 December.

The launch of UK OneWeb space internet system satellites from the Baikonur space centre was postponed from December this year to January 2020, three sources in Russia’s rocket and space industry revealed.

“The launch is being postponed due to the fact that the spacecraft are not ready. Their delivery to Baikonur is delayed from November to December 2019. The planned launch is postponed from 19 December to 23 January,” one of the sources said, with two other sources confirming this information.

OneWeb plans to create a constellation of satellites that will provide broadband Internet access to users around the world fully covering the Earth’s surface. In cooperation with Roscosmos, the UK communications company sent up its first satellites in February and has planned its next two launches for the end of this year and the first half of 2020.

The Link is HERE

By 23 January SpaceX is planning to have 230 Starlinks in orbit, halfway to an initial operating flock of satellites. OneWeb seems to be stumbling at the gate.

Fast Company: OneWeb Wants to Blanket the Planet in High-Speed Satellite Broadband

[. . .]

In a July test, OneWeb reported download speeds of 400-Mbps to a Seoul location as it automatically switched from satellite to satellite—with latency under 40 milliseconds, versus 600 milliseconds and up for GEO satellite.

That would make this service competitive with many forms of wired and wireless broadband, even if that responsiveness figure can’t match the sub-10-ms latency figures touted for the fastest but shortest-range version of 5G wireless.

OneWeb sees that as less a bug than business opportunity, pitching its constellation-to-be as a worldwide solution for 5G backhaul, connecting 5G networks in less-dense markets with those elsewhere.

Fast Company has more details HERE

LEO Economic Development Opportunities

by Russ Steele

The introduction of millions of satellite ground terminals into the consumer market open up some economic development opportunities. According to Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s President and Chief Operating Officer, the one million terminals will be shipped to the customer in a box, and they will do the installation. I do not have any information on how the 1.5 million OneWeb end-user terminals will arrive?

Based on my experience as a non-profit ISP introducing the dial-up Internet to the community where none existed, this will work for some people, the techies. Still, the average consumer is going to need some help. They will especially need some help in the early days when the network is not yet robust and has a limitation on coverage. Users will need to have some understanding of satellite dynamics and appreciate the line of site restrictions. They will need to understand the weakness of the system as well as the strengths.

As a non-profit, we put a significant volunteer effort into customer support, bring people up to speed on the Internet. This may be an opening for community colleges to offer courses for terminal customer service reps or hold on-campus classes on satellite Internet. The University of Arizona is offering online courses to train people to operate the network ground control terminals and associated satellite dynamics. So far, the end-user terminal training is not being provided. This opens some opportunities for entrepreneurs who might want to do some ground terminal user consulting.  

I am planning to be an early end-user and will report the results on this blog. Stay tuned.

OneWeb Update

Decmber 19, 2019 
Soyuz • OneWeb 2
Launch time: TBD [Will up date when known]

Launch site:
 Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
A Russian Soyuz rocket will launch approximately 32 satellites into orbit for OneWeb, which is developing a constellation of hundreds of satellites in low Earth orbit for low-latency broadband communications. The Soyuz-2.1b rocket will use a Fregat upper stage. Delayed from Nov. 20. [Oct. 4]
Source: Spaceflightnow.com

OneWeb Needs Another Billion for Launches

UK Telegraph:

British satellite maker OneWeb is preparing to tap investors for another $1bn (£770m) as the cost of its plan to launch hundreds of advanced orbiters into space next year rockets.

City sources said OneWeb, which is backed by Japan’s SoftBank, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Airbus, is aiming to raise the sum as it prepares to launch 30 satellites per month from December in what will be the largest launch programme in history.

Around half the money is expected to be stumped up by SoftBank and spread over two years. The raise is expected to be a mix of fresh equity and debt, although the final amount and timeline could still change.

The discussions are underway just six months after a $1.25bn capital injection in March that valued OneWeb at $3.25bn.

The company’s chief financial officer, Tom Whayne, revealed last month that it was in “active discussions on a new round of equity financing from a combination of existing and new investors”.

A company spokesman declined to comment further.

OneWeb, is spending billions on launching a constellation of 650 small satellites to offer world-spanning internet connectivity.

Emphasis added.  Continue reading HERE.

See highlighted text.  I think that SpaceX with the launch of 60 satellites on a single Falcon 9 holds the largest launch claim. SpaceX is planning two launches per month in 2020 of 60 satellites per launch, which beats OneWeb’s 30 per month.

The Forrester Report: Is the OneWeb Model Doomed?

Senior Columnist Chris Forrester

Senior Columnist Chris Forrester examines the problems surrounding OneWeb, not the least of which is the September 10th lawsuit filed against OneWeb and that firm’s financial backer, SoftBank, and he examines OneWeb’s prospects.

September was a good month/bad month for LEO operator OneWeb. The good news was the firm’s technical link up with Iridium. Announced on September 17, the pair signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at Iridium’s client conference at Coronado, California. Iridium and OneWeb are likely to see a bundled/twin-frequency service offering.

The two have yet to determine how the ‘partnership’ will work; however, combined terminal equipment is one probability. They each use different transmission frequencies (Iridium uses L-band, OneWeb is Ku-band based).

But as good as this relationship is, the September 19 news that Intelsat was suing OneWeb (and its financial backer media giant, SoftBank) for “breach of contract, fraud and conspiracy” — and with Intelsat seeking court-ordered compensation damages, punitive damages as well as demanding an end to OneWeb and SoftBank’s “willful breach” of their commercial relationship with Intelsat certainly is not a positive business environment.

The jury will, in time, determine the merits of Intelsat’s case — and remember, there has been no counter-argument filed yet — but it is now reasonable to suggest that any attempt by OneWeb to secure significant injections of cash must now be put on hold until this case wraps up and that may take time to adjudicate.

Within the Court filing, Intelsat alleges that SoftBank has been trying to sell its OneWeb stake and had changed its mind as to OneWeb’s prospects. The writ also provides details that OneWeb had also changed its mind as to how it would build its business.

The writ specifically alleges that the OneWeb and SoftBank conspired together in stealing confidential information, because — the writ states — SoftBank no longer believed in the OneWeb project and was seeking to protect its previous investment in OneWeb.

The full article at Satellite Magazine is HERE.


Rural Telcom De-regulation — Prompts Competition from Space

Doug Dawson has an excellent post in Pots and Pans on the impact regulators had on the lack of rural broadband.

Rural America should never have been deregulated. Shame on every regulator in every state that voted to deregulate the big telcos in rural America. Shame on every regulator that allowed companies like Verizon palm off their rural copper to companies like Frontier – a company that cannot succeed, almost by definition.

In rural America the telcos have a physical network monopoly and the regulators should have found ways to support rural copper rather than letting the telcos walk away from it. We know this can be done by looking at the different approaches taken by the smaller independent telephone companies. These small companies took care of their copper and most have now taken the next step to upgrade to fiber to be ready for the next century.

The full post is HERE.

Doug writes: “The big telcos started abandoning rural America as much as thirty years ago. They’ve stopped maintaining copper and have not voluntarily made any investments in rural America for a long time. There was a burst of rural construction recently when the FCC gave them $11 billion to improve rural broadband to 10/1 Mbps – but that doesn’t seem to be drawing many rural subscribers.”

The launch of the low earth-orbiting satellite broadband networks by SpaceX, OneWeb, and Amazon are going to provide rural users alternatives to the poor service and slow speeds offered by the telcos. The LEO ISPs are promising “fiber-like services” to rural customers starting in 2020, with full service by 2021.

One of the challenges will be the start-up costs, which are forecast to be in the $300 to 500 dollar range. The monthly fee of those services is presently an unknown but is expected to be competitive with existing fiber services.

SpaceX is expecting a high demand for their “fiber-like services” from space. They have requested permission to launch up to 42,000 Starlink satellites, 12,000 that are already approved plus 30,000 more to meet the expected global demand. This YouTube video has some details and attractive graphics: