SpaceX isn't only company aiming to create space-based internet network

OneWeb Satellites, Amazon among competitors in new branch of telecom industry

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist
Regis Duvignau/X00095/Reuters via CNN

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Last week, SpaceX launched the first round of many Starlink satellites to build a high-speed internet using low-Earth orbit satellites.

The 64 satellites successfully deployed last week are the first round in a much larger constellation of thousands of spacecraft that will eventually provide affordable, high-speed internet around the world, according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

Musk said he can see 1,000 to 2,000 satellites launching a year, and eventually, SpaceX satellites would total more than all other spacecraft in low-Earth orbit.

The concept of using hundreds or thousands of satellites to create a space-based internet is expected to reshape the telecommunications industry and make internet accessible in even remote locations.

Here's a look at some of the other companies also embarking in this new telecom field and the launch vehicles that will get the spacecraft to orbit:

OneWeb Satellites

Launcher One, mated to Virgin Orbit's 747 Cosmic Girl, took its first flight to above 18,000 feet on Sunday Nov. 18, 2019. (Image credit: Virgin Orbit)

Founded in 2012, OneWeb Satellites is a joint venture between Airbus and OneWeb. The company was created with the goal to create a constellation of 900 low-Earth Satellites to provide a space-based high-speed internet for the globe.

OneWeb Satellites has two manufacturing facilities, one in Merritt Island inside Kennedy Space Center Exploration Park and another in Toulouse, France. The facility in Merritt Island includes a 46,000-foot clean room and the ability to produce 15 satellites a week.

Arianespace successfully delivered the first six OneWeb internet satellites into orbit in February.

Although a majority of the communication constellation will be manufactured on the Space Coast the spacecraft will depart from sites around the world with launch providers Arianespace and Virgin Orbit. 

California-based Virgin Orbit acquired a launch contract with OneWeb Satellites for its air-launched LauncherOne rocket.

Cosmic Girl acts as a mobile launch pad for the rocket, making launches possible from almost anywhere there is a runway. The converted passenger jet carries the rocket under its wing before dropping LauncherOne. After the plane is clear, the rocket then fires up its engines to launch into low-Earth orbit.

SpaceNews.com reports OneWeb plans to have around 150 satellites in orbit by the end of the year and will begin offering regional coverage in 2020 and global coverage the following year.

Amazon’s Project Kuiper

David McNew/Getty Images

Jeff Bezos recently entered the internet business, announcing Project Kuiper in April, which is planned to be made up of 3,236 satellites to provide global internet.

Kuiper is named for the belt of objects beyond Neptune.

"Project Kuiper is a long-term initiative to launch a constellation of low Earth orbit satellites that will provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world," according to Amazon's website.

A detailed timeline for Project Kuiper hasn't been released, but Amazon is currently hiring about 75 people to work on the project.

Bezos, who like Musk also has his own space company, Blue Origin, could benefit from his company’s reusable rockets to bring down launch costs.

Blue Origin is slated to begin launching New Glenn, a reusable heavy lift rocket, from Cape Canaveral in 2021.

Telesat

Relativity Space

Canadian-based satellite provider Telesat is currently in phase 1 of creating a network of satellites called Telesar LEO that will “provide global fiber-like connectivity,” according to its website.

The Federal Communication Commission approved the launch of 117 Telesat LEO communications satellites.

The first satellites launched from India in January and are currently in low-Earth Orbit as part of phase 1 testing.

Telesat has signed multi-launch agreements with Relativity Space and Blue Origin to launch portions of the satellite constellation.

Blue Origin is set to begin launching its reusable rocket, New Glenn, from Cape Canaveral in 2021. Relativity Space and its 3D-printed Terran 1 will also liftoff from Cape Canaveral no earlier than 2021.

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