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OneWeb is about to launch its first internet satellites to connect the unconnected

February 27, 2019

After a number of delays, the first six satellites of OneWeb’s planned 900-satellite constellation should launch today.

Making a connection: Today’s launch, scheduled for 4:37 p.m. US Eastern time on board an Arianespace Soyuz rocket from French Guiana, is OneWeb’s first big step toward achieving its goal of connecting the unconnected (you’ll be able to watch the launch live here).

The Virginia-based company is one of a number of firms (like SpaceX, Telesat, and LeoSat) that are planning to use vast numbers of low-Earth-orbit satellites to provide broadband internet connections to unconnected regions around the globe. The satellites will circle the Earth and beam internet to the surface from an altitude of around 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers).

Just the beginning: More regular launches of more than 30 satellites at a time are expected to begin later this year to build up the initial 650-satellite constellation. One of the first places the satellites will be tested is in rural Alaska (see “Why the future of satellite internet might be determined in rural Alaska”). 

What’s next: The startup is going to have to ramp up its satellite production to make satellites at the speed required, which could put its finances to the test. Expect to hear more about the new Florida-based factory, opening in the coming months, that will be responsible for making them.

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