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OneWeb Adjusts Target Constellation Size Down to 7,000 Satellites 

By Rachel Jewett | January 14, 2021

Image of a OneWeb satellite. Photo: Arianespace

OneWeb has adjusted its plans for the size of its Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) constellation down from a 48,000-satellite constellation to roughly 7,000, the company announced Wednesday. 

In May, while the company was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, OneWeb asked the FCC to increase its market access for a constellation of 48,000 satellites. Now, OneWeb is recalibrating and reducing its request for U.S. market access to 6,372 satellites. OneWeb said that together with the 720 satellites for which it is already licensed by the FCC, the total constellation size will be roughly 7,000. 

OneWeb emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 2020 under the ownership of a consortium led by the U.K. government and Bharti Global. About a month after the milestone, OneWeb returned to flight with a launch of 36 satellites, bringing the number of satellites in its constellation to 110. The company said it is focused on launching its first-generation system of 648 satellites and on track to start regional commercial services within a year. 

In the FCC filing dated Jan. 12, OneWeb said the revised deployment plan will allow for “superior end user throughput and spectral efficiency while reducing funding requirements and fostering OneWeb’s responsible space vision.” 

According to the filing, OneWeb is proposing 72 satellites across 32 planes in both the 40° and 55° orbital inclination, in addition to 1,764 satellites in the 87.9° orbital inclination. 

“This solidification of OneWeb’s constellation demonstrates the commitment and vision of OneWeb’s new owners, the U.K. government and Bharti Global who are dedicated to deploying a cost effective, responsible, and groundbreaking satellite network to deliver global broadband,” OneWeb said in Wednesday’s statement. 

OneWeb’s summary of proposed constellation deployments. (Screenshot via FCC filing.)

[Coming soon from Via Satellite: An interview with Sunil Bharti Mittal of Bharti Enterprises]