In a surge of activity, OneWeb – recently purchased by British/Indian interests – has applied to the US FCC for a “minor” amendment to its Phase 2 constellation proposal involving a considerable reduction in its planned number of satellites. In addition to this, on 15 January, it announced US$400 million in further funding from previous majority investor SoftBank and long-time partner EchoStar Hughes.
Firstly, OneWeb is requesting what it describes as a “minor amendment” to the previously accepted Phase 2 constellation proposal. This entails reducing the number of Phase 2 satellites from nearly 48,000 to just 6,372. It is believed, and hoped, that this near 85 per cent reduction will allow OneWeb to provide a superior end-product while simultaneously supporting a “Responsible Space” vision. Concerns have previously been raised by scientific and astronomical groups about the effects that mega-constellations may have on their fields.
The second development is the securing of US$400 million of extra funding for the project. Part of this amount – US$50 million – is the consummation of an agreement made during Chapter 11 proceedings between the new owners and EchoStar Hughes. The rest, from giant Japanese conglomerate SofBank Group, acts as a bridge between the old company and the new. With these additions the funding available to new OneWeb totals US$1.4 billion.