NASA: Expert compares SpaceX to UK’s OneWeb
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British company Orbex has been developing a launchpad that will be used for sending small satellites into low-earth orbit from the UK. Having started back in 2016, CEO Chris Larmour claimed: “Right now, I think it is widely recognised that we are well ahead of anyone else doing this in Europe. “For the past three or four years the UK has been well ahead.” This could be a huge boost for the UK’s OneWeb satellite network – which has now moved its satellite production to the UK.
OneWeb is the world’s second-biggest satellite operator and it is building an advanced satellite network to provide Internet across the globe.
It has been tipped as the UK’s rival to Galileo a project which many small satellite companies left Britain after Brexit to stay a part of as the UK was barred from it following its departure from the bloc.
Galileo also carries out a similar function to the OneWeb network, providing accessible satellite data enabling positioning, navigation and timing determination.
But those companies that left the UK may soon return when they see companies like Orbex that are making huge progress in sending low-Earth orbit satellites into space.
Mr Larmour said: “We can apply for launch licenses that almost no other country in the EU can do right now.
“The UK is actually quite a big player in the generic space sector in terms of satellites and downstream services where we analyse the data in the satellites.
“But we haven’t been a player in the launch domain since we stopped doing it in the seventies and I think that’s the impetus the Government is pushing is to bring us back into that domain.”
Back in September, 30 OneWeb satellites were launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The satellites beam signals in 3G, 5G, LTE and Wi-Fi for high-speed internet access to all corners of the globe.
Arianespace, the company that organised the launch, said: “OneWeb’s constellation of 650 satellites will deliver high-speed, low-latency enterprise-grade connectivity services to a wide range of customer sectors including enterprise, government, maritime and aviation customers.
“Central to its purpose, OneWeb seeks to bring connectivity to every unconnected area where fibre cannot reach, and thereby bridge the digital divide.”
But after that launch, OneWeb was only halfway towards its 650 target.
Now companies like Orbex will be hoping they can play a part in helping to launch the rest of OneWeb’s satellites into low-earth orbit.
Back in July 2020, the Government pledged to invest £400m in OneWeb to give it a stake in a business after the company went bankrupt.
The deal included a pledge to bring the manufacturing of OneWeb’s satellites to the UK.
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Downing Street said: “The deal will support the UK to be a pioneer in the research, development, manufacturing, and exploitation of novel satellite technologies, whilst boosting UK manufacturing.”
Graham Turnock, the UK Space Agency chief executive, said: “Now is the right time to look at new ways to use space to boost the UK’s prosperity, security and global influence, while benefiting people across the whole country.”
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