After the UK was kicked out of the Galileo project, the government considered alternatives to an original plan to develop its own constellation of satellites. This has since meant the pursuit of OneWeb – the low Earth orbit (LEO) broadband constellation that was acquired from bankruptcy with Indian company Bharti Global. OneWeb has now declared itself “financially secure” after receiving an additional investment of $ 500million (£ 362million) from the same shareholder, while Starlink founder, his big rival, Mr Musk, has shared figures suggesting that his company is far from it.
After discussing how the costs could possibly reach £ 30bn, Mr Musk added: “The first step for Starlink is not to go bankrupt.
“If we can manage not to go bankrupt, it will be great and we can move on. “
Starlink will consist of thousands of small probes serially produced in LEO, which will communicate with designated ground transceivers.
Although Mr. Musk didn’t mention OneWeb by name, the company has emerged as the child star of the financial precariousness of the satellite broadband industry.
Bharti Global’s Indian announcement this week comes after Paris-based Eutelsat also declared an investment of $ 550 million (£ 400 million), a move that has reportedly angered some in Brussels.
Bharti will be the company’s largest shareholder with a 38.6% stake, while the government, Eutelsat and Japanese firm Softbank will each hold 19.3%.
OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson said, “Completing our funding puts OneWeb in a strong position.
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“We are benefiting from an investment of $ 3.4 billion (£ 2.6 billion) from the original shareholders, making the new OneWeb a constellation of costs three times lower.
“After the next launch, we will have completed 40% of our network.
“We are intensely focused on execution and only 10 more launches will allow us to provide global coverage. “
Meanwhile, the EU is said to have made slow progress in creating its own constellation to compete with OneWeb.
The European Commission launched an initiative in December to study the feasibility of a Brussels-backed space communication system, which would be “a few weeks away” from conclusion.
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It will seek to complement the networks that European satellite operators already provide in geostationary (GEO) and medium (MEO) orbits.
The members of the consortium are Airbus, Arianespace, Eutelsat, Hispasat, OHB, Orange, SES, Telespazio and Thales Alenia Space.
But OneWeb is already a third of the way to deploy around 650 LEO broadband satellites, and SpaceX’s LEO constellation, Starlink, is even more advanced with more than 1,600 estimated satellites in orbit.
Technology expert Simon Baker previously noted: “No region has more to lose from Elon Musk’s rise in space than Europe. Its Arianespace is one of the launch providers that lost to SpaceX.
“Currently, Europe is a world leader in satellite operations, as it is home to the headquarters of three of the main players: Eutelsat, SES and Inmarsat.
“European geostationary operators, with large investments in in-orbit capacity that they can now do nothing to change, appear vulnerable and must react. “