Start-up satellite constellation operator OneWeb has announced that it is reducing the size of its planned satellite constellation in low Earth orbit (LEO) by one third from 900 to 600 satellites. This reduction, and the potential cost saving, was made possible after performance analysis of the satellites during ground testing showed that there would be no diminution of overall system performance and that a worldwide coverage would still be available. Each satellite costs circa US$0.5 million and 21 Soyuz launches have been booked to launch most of the constellation. These are due to begin from February 2019 onwards. The constellation is likely to become operational in 2020 at the latest.
Comment by David Todd: While the financial saving from the satellites’ apparent overperformance is welcome, analysts suspect that the cut in satellite numbers was largely forced by the prospect of having to raise more funds than the US$1.7 billion OneWeb has already raised to complete the system.