Space Coast Constellation Factory Transferred to Airbus
Feb 07, 2024
Airbus U.S. Space & Defense has completed the purchase of the remaining 50 percent stake in the OneWeb Satellites joint venture, formally assuming complete control of the new satellite manufacturing facility in Florida as it looks to optimize and strengthen its position in the burgeoning small satellite market for commercial, governmental and military clients.
Originally founded in 2016 by Airbus and OneWeb, the OneWeb Satellites joint venture was created to design and oversee the construction of the most advanced high-volume satellite manufacturing facility in the world, situated in Exploration Park adjacent to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. It was designed to build thousands of small satellites to provide OneWeb with the level of technology and manufacturing capacity needed to deliver on its mission to enable Internet access everywhere.
Since OneWeb’s first network deployment came together, more than 650 communication satellites have been built at that factory. The plant is now exclusively operated by Airbus U.S. Space & Defense and is making satellites at a rate of two per day. Airbus has already started expanding and improving satellite production as part of a wider effort to increase its capacity and build faster in order to meet skyrocketing demand.
Robert Geckle, CEO of Airbus U.S. Space & Defense, said that the deal helped to cement their place as the main supplier of large-scale mini satellites, and showed his company’s partnership with OneWeb had been successful. There are promising opportunities ahead for Airbus on Florida’s space coast as they continue to use this state-of-the-art facility for building their small satellites.
The unveiling of Arrow, Airbus’s new satellite platform tailored for cost-effective low Earth orbit mega-constellations, signifies the start of a new chapter. Extensive renovations at the Merritt Island site have outfitted the facility with cutting-edge equipment necessary for mass production of the Arrow450 model. As small satellites become progressively more affordable and advanced, Airbus is staking its claim as the preeminent manufacturer in an industry anticipating exponential growth.
Likewise, Massimiliano Ladovaz of the Eutelsat Group commented, “We are proud to partner with Airbus in this joint venture which has enabled the successful development of OneWeb’s first-generation constellation. We are confident the business will continue to thrive by meeting the growing demand for small satellites with a best-in-class, competitive offering. Looking ahead, the Eutelsat Group will benefit from access to a more diversified range of suppliers for its future in-orbit needs.”
Industry analysis shows that access to abundant launch capacity has opened up demand for small satellites used in space-based services such as communications, Earth observation, and science. Airbus aims to leverage its status as the world’s dominant manufacturer of Galileo navigation satellites, as well as its own much larger telecom spacecraft, as it spearheads this increasingly significant niche segment of small satellites.
The acquisition places OneWeb Satellites firmly within Airbus’s constellation ecosystem focused on enabling and managing mega-constellations for commercial customers. By centralizing satellite manufacturing operations, Airbus can achieve synergies across its portfolio while innovating production processes at scale. There are no plans for any layoffs or staffing changes at the plant in connection with this deal.
As the aerospace industry embraces mass-produced small satellites for flexible and affordable access to space, Airbus U.S. Space & Defense views this acquisition as a strategic move. Geckle said, “This acquisition reinforces our commitment to serving the large and fast-growing market for constellations requiring high-volume, recurring satellite manufacture and delivery.”
Now, in addition to being the sole owner of the only state-of-the-art satellite production line in the world, Airbus has positioned itself as a key enabler of next-generation space systems, bringing new technologies to market. Eutelsat continues to benefit from Airbus’s innovations due to its multi-year service agreement with OneWeb.
As Airbus takes full ownership of OneWeb Satellites and cements itself as an end-to-end provider of next-generation space solutions, BusinessCom Networks is pioneering cutting-edge connectivity powered by satellite technology. BusinessCom offers proprietary enhancements to standard OneWeb infrastructure through exclusive BusinessCom OneWeb services. Covering 35° north latitude and beyond, BusinessCom OneWeb includes proprietary capabilities like MSO and Secure Link not found in competing OneWeb offerings.
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