Airbus Manufacturing Two OneWeb Satellites Per Day

This video shows a view of the satellite assembly line.

At 200 work days per year, that would produce 400 satellite a year, or 800 in four years, more than enough to populate the initial constellation of 650 in the next two years.


OneWeb Wants to Rebuild the Internet in Space

The Denver Post has the OneWeb story and Greg Wyler’s dream of connecting the world.

Wyler’s dream to beam the internet from space to remote corners of the world is finally here, he said. In February, the first of his company’s satellites launched from a remote launch site in French Guiana, a key step toward building a constellation that could eventually reach nearly 2,000 satellites.

If Wyler’s plans are successful, what he and his fellow executives at OneWeb envision is nothing short of revolutionary: becoming one of the world’s largest providers of internet service by building the architecture in space, allowing billions more people to use the web. Wyler founded the Britain-based company in 2012.

“The ultimate goal is to connect every school in the world and bridge the digital divide,” Wyler said in an interview after his pep talk. “We’re bringing connectivity and enabling it for people around the world, and in rural populations.”

If successful, remote areas all over the world — from Alaska to Africa — that are out of reach of fiber optic cables could suddenly join the world of Facebook and YouTube, a feat Wyler and others believe could be transformative.

But building the backbone of the internet in orbit is no easy task. Others have tried to put up constellations of communications satellites. The enormous cost is only outmatched by the risks of putting up hundreds of spacecraft in orbit.

Full Story is HERE


Rural California Should Not Fret Over 5G and Start Looking for LEO Satellites

By Russ Steele

Ever wonder what the LTE in 4G LTE stood for? I always thought that LTE was the abbreviation for 4G light. In one sense it is as 4G LTE does not meet the minimum ITE standard for 4G, so it was designated 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE). Almost 4G but not quite. It does not matter what LTE stands for in those communities that do not have any 4G LTE networks by any of the four telco providers.

As you can see on the map below, there are large swaths of California census blocks which do not have a single provider of 4G LTE. FCC has designated these rural blue areas eligible for subsidies, under the Mobility Fund Phase II Program.

Screen Shot 2019-03-15 at 4.03.51 PM.png

Mobility Fund Phase II (MF-II) will make up to $4.53 billion in support available over 10 years to primarily rural areas that lack unsubsidized 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) service. MF-II is critically important to supporting mobile voice and broadband coverage, incentivizing the deployment of mobile wireless service through a reverse auction, and ensuring that 4G LTE service is preserved and advanced in those areas of the country that lack unsubsidized service.

Under this schedule, it could be another 10 years before some communities final get 4G LTE service, if at all. While the Federal Government is subsidizing the build-out, one of the four telcos has to decide to bid for the subsidy and then take the risk they can build a sustainable system, without additional subsidies.

The 5G rollout is expected to follow a similar path as 4G in the evolution from 3G. The 4G rollout started in the dense urban cities and then moved to the transportation corridors and then to the suburbs and final into some rural areas with populations density was high enough to support the telco ROI calculations. AT&T started offering 4G LTE in 2011, Verizon in 2010, Sprint in 2012 and T-Mobile in 2013. Eight years later many communities still do not have reliable 4G LTE coverage.

After eight years there are still rural communities with 3G service or no broadband service at all. It is highly likely that these rural communities will ever see 5G.

Digital Trends:

The ITU IMT-2020 specification requires 5G to feature peak speeds of 20Gbps, but as we saw from 4G LTE, we can realistically expect those sorts of speeds 10 years from now. Even then, those speeds are only expected when using short-range mmWave spectrum, not longer range sub-6GHz spectrum. That means as per usual, rural areas won’t feel the benefit for a while, if at all. For now, consumers living in urban areas should expect speeds in line with LTE Advanced (or, one might say, true 4G) that will incrementally improve each year.

For rural communities that do not have 4G LTE, it will be hard to benefit from an upgrade to full 4G which will take place over the next ten years. What are rural communities to do in the interim? Let’s look at some other timelines, the LEO satellite timelines.

Just last week (02-27-2019) OneWeb launched the first six of a 600 Satellite constellation, and under the FCC agreement must have all satellites launched in six years.

SpaceX will start launching phase one satellites in late 2019 with a full constellation of 4,425 by 2024. The SpaceX LEO constellations are expected to provide G5 level speeds at fiber network latency of 25-35ms.

Telesat, which operates a large fleet of geo sync statutes announced a smaller 117 satellite LEO constellation and plans to deliver the first service in 2021.

Given these timelines, if they hold up, rural communities could have access to space-based broadband long before some will see 4G LTE or 5G. It is time they stop fretting over when will they get terrestrial 5G and start thinking about how they can benefit from space-based broadband access.  Go LEO Satellites


SpaceX User Earth Stations

As a future user of Starlink I was wondering what the user earth stations would look like, how much they would cost and what the monthly user fee might be.

SpaceX has petitioned the FCC to approve the deployment of 1 million Starlink user terminals. According to an interview with Elon Musk in 2015, the laptop-sized terminals are expected to cost between $100 and $300 each.

Each terminal uses a phased array antenna to communicate with satellites when they are 40 degrees above the horizon. However, in initial deployment, this viewing angle may be as low as 25 degrees to increase coverage with a minimum constellation of satellites.

The minimum fleet of Starlink satellites could be as low as 800, with 1,600 the phase one target. With the deployment of 2,825 phase two satellites, a network simulation indicates a single terminal could see 40 to 60 satellites overhead at any one instant, depending on end the user’s earth station latitude.

According to testimony before the Senate Commerce, Science and Technology Commission by Patricia Cooper, VP Satellite Government Affairs at SpaceX.

For the end consumer, SpaceX user terminals—essentially, a relatively small flat panel, roughly the size of a laptop—will use similar phased array technologies to allow for highly directive, steered antenna beams that track the system’s low-Earth orbit satellites.

The user terminals operate in the Ku and Ka-Bands:

a. The Satellite to User Terminal downlink is at 10.7GHz to 12.7 GHz.
b. The User Terminal to Satellite uplink is from 14.0GHz to 14.5 GHz.

I could not find any photos of a prototype users terminal. Will this terminal be a portable device or device fixed to the roof of a structure like this OneWeb access terminal? I guess that both options may be available.

OneWeb Terminal

SpaceX has just started hiring engineers and designer to build their user terminals, some stationed in Redmond WA and other at the Hawthorne facility in CA

Given my interest in someday being a Starlink user, I will continue to follow the user station development, and uncover some answers on user cost and deployment configurations. Stay Tuned!

2019 SpaceX Rocket Launches, No Starlink Launches on Published Schedule?

The “important launches” for SpaceX in 2019 are listed HERE.

My problem is I did not see any Starlink launches scheduled in 2019.  There may not be any scheduled or they are not considered “important launches”, just routine delivery missions.

According to a 2017 WSJ story SpaceX was planning 52 launches in 2019. The schedule above lists only 12 launches. 

In contrast,  OneWeb has booked 21 Soyuz missions, including the launch of the first six birds on 27 Feb 2019.

 “The following 20 Soyuz flights are expected to loft up to 36 satellites at a time from launch pads in at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia, and the Guiana Space Center in South America.”

“OneWeb’s satellites are in polar orbit around 745 miles (1,200 kilometers) above Earth, but the Soyuz launchers release the spacecraft — each about the size of a mini-fridge — at a lower altitude. The satellites use plasma thrusters to maneuver into the OneWeb constellation.”

More details  HERE.

Update 03-06-19 from NASA

Additionally, SpaceX recently filed for the FCC licenses needed to support a Falcon 9 launch from SLC-40 and a recovery on OCISLY. The droneship will be positioned about 600 kilometers downrange to the northeast. Interestingly, there is not a SpaceX customer on the near-term manifest with a payload that would require such a trajectory. now understands that this is the first dedicated flight for SpaceX’s proposed low earth orbit internet constellation called Starlink.

Two Starlink demonstration satellites named Tintin A and Tintin B were launched from Vandenberg in February of last year as rideshares with the Paz mission.

However, this time around the launch is expected to be dedicated to Starlink. Given that the position of the droneship will be over 600 kilometers downrange, it is expected that the flight will require a substantial amount of performance from the Falcon 9. As a result, SpaceX will likely be flying several Starlink spacecraft as opposed to just two.

No indication how many Starlink birds per launch, however here are some estimates. 

The Falcon 9 Wikipedia page cites a 9 600kg payload capability in the reusable configuration. This would amount to a staggering 24 satellites per launch.

A more likely configuration due to space and weight limitations would be 20 for Falcon 9, 64 for a Falcon Heavy and 304 for a BFR.  

More details HERE.

OneWeb Service Schedule

OneWeb will begin offering customer demonstrations next year and full Internet service from space anywhere on the planet in 2021.

Son’s Softbank Group, Branson’s Virgin Group and other investors have supplied OneWeb with about $2 billion in backing so far, as the startup races against rivals large and small to offer much faster Internet connections from satellites than are available now. The race includes everyone from Elon Musk’s SpaceX and existing satellite-based Internet providers Viasat (VSAT, +0.29%) and EchoStar’s (SATS, -0.75%) Hughes Network Systems to dozens of upstarts like Swarm Technologies, Astrocast, and Sky and Space Global. SpaceX and Swarm have reached the satellite-launch phase too, as have Viasat and Hughes, which are already looking to upgrade those in use.

The full article is HERE.

With a plethora is space-based internet options will rural America need 5G? It appears that rural America will have high-speed internet access from space long before the ten years 5G build-out gets to rural communities. The initial 5G installations will be in dense urban areas and then migrate to the edge of suburbia, with rural communities last on the list, if they are ROI viable. It appears that rural communities will have multiple space-based internets services to choose from. Competition should keep the costs as low or lower than 5G.

SpaceX Starlink One Million Ground Stations

ARS Technica has the detail:

SpaceX is seeking US approval to deploy up to 1 million Earth stations to receive transmissions from its planned satellite broadband constellation.

[. . .]

A new application from SpaceX Services, a sister company, asks the FCC for “a blanket license authorizing operation of up to 1,000,000 Earth stations that end-user customers will utilize to communicate with SpaceX’s NGSO [non-geostationary orbit] constellation.”

[. . .]

FCC tells SpaceX it can deploy up to 11,943 broadband satellites
If each end-user Earth station provides Internet service to one building, SpaceX could eventually need authorization for more than 1 million stations in the US. SpaceX job listings describe the user terminal as “a high-volume manufactured product customers will have in their homes.”

“These user terminals employ advanced phased-array beam-forming and digital processing technologies to make highly efficient use of Ku-band spectrum resources by supporting highly directive, steered antenna beams that track the system’s low-Earth orbit satellites,” SpaceX’s new application says. “Consistent with SpaceX’s space station authorization, these Earth stations will transmit in the 14.0-14.5 GHz band and receive in the 10.7-12.7 GHz band… SpaceX Services seeks authority to deploy and operate these Earth stations throughout the contiguous United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.”

[. . . ]

“The proposed user terminal is a flat phased array capable of steering its beams to track SpaceX’s NGSO satellites passing within its field of view,” the application also says. “As the terminal steers the transmitting beam, it also adjusts the power to maintain a constant level at the receiving antenna of its target satellite, compensating for variations in antenna gain and path loss associated with the steering angle.”

[. . .]

In addition to user terminals, SpaceX plans a smaller number of gateway Earth stations to “provide the necessary communications links back from the SpaceX satellites to the global Internet,” according to a previous SpaceX filing. SpaceX has estimated that it will deploy “several hundred” of these gateway stations across the US to be “co-located with or sited near major Internet peering points to provide the required Internet connectivity to the satellite constellation.” SpaceX also plans two tracking telemetry and control (TT&C) stations in the US, one on the East Coast and another on the West Coast.

Additional details HERE. [Emphasis added]

Launches are scheduled for mid-2019 with service starting in 2020. I am looking forward to having a terminal on my roof. Stay Tuned for more details.