The startup’s first launch of 10 satellites aboard an Arianespace Soyuz rocket was scheduled for this month, but was pushed out toward the end of the year to allow for more testing and to incorporate improved components in the final spacecraft design.
“Our production launches will start in Q4,” Greg Wyler, OneWeb’s founder, told SpaceNews. “We decided to continue with more ground testing and then go right into production because we can test virtually everything we need on the ground.”
OneWeb is building the first 900 satellites of its constellation through a joint venture with Airbus called OneWeb Satellites. Wyler said the decision to delay was “based on which component revisions were available.”
Backed by SoftBank, Intelsat, Coca-Cola and other investors, OneWeb is creating a constellation of small telecom satellites with the goal of making the internet accessible to everyone on Earth by 2027. How many satellites exactly is still to be determined — OneWeb in March asked the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to expand its authorization from 720 to 1,980 Ku-band satellites. The company still expects to begin service in 2019, starting with the first few hundred spacecraft.
“As long as we begin our production launches this year we are still on schedule,” Wyler said.