Elon Musk in SpaceX in Hawthorne, California, seems to become enamored by a new grandiose idea every week or so. And this week was no exception. This time he and his well-heeled colleagues are trying to find a way to serve the 3 billion earthlings hunkering down at scattered locations around the globe lacking service by modern cellphones or conventional telephones.
The solution? Launch a giant swarm of broadband communication satellites into low-altitude circular orbits flying in a tight formation with one another as they circle around the globe. It is called OneWeb.
300-pound satellites are to be launched into 18 orbit planes with 40 satellites following one another in single file around each plane. Ku-band transmitters will provide satellite-based cellphone services to remote and underserved users everywhere in the world. Mass production techniques and the economies of scale should help keep the cost of each individual satellite in the $500,000 range. Recently the OneWeb satellites passed their preliminary design review at the famous satellite design center in Toulouse, France. OneWeb’s total network cost, including a widely dispersed network of gateway Earth stations, is expected to come in at about $3.5 billion, provided the cost-conscious satellite-makers in Exploration Park, Florida, can come in within their target budget. Company spokesmen ha ve indicated that, so far, their team members are on schedule and within 5% of their estimated costs.
About 15-percent of the $3.5 billion has been raised and has been funding about 300 full-time experts. Present schedules call for initial money-raising services to being in 2019. Some industry experts have been calling the concept the O3b “other three billion”, for the three billion widely distributed individuals unserved by mobile or hard-wired telephones.
Elon Musk is famous for turning wild ideas into practical reality and squeezed out impressive profits along the way. Many of his ideas have been floating around for some time when he decides to take a shot at turning them into reality. An earlier version of OneWeb was touted by Edward Tucks in the 1970’s. It was called Teledesic.
The Teledesic concept sprang to life because Tucks read that “40 million people (were) on the waiting list for telephone services around the world.” He quietly sketched up the plans for an 840-satellite constellation of communication satellites flitting through space in 435-mile orbits.
Launch costs were a big barrier then. But Elon Musk can now put a big dent in that problem with his surprisingly inexpensive Falcon boosters.
Tom Logsdon, the author of this blog teaches short courses for the Applied Technology Institute in Riva, Maryland. He will be discussing, in detail, the rapidly evolving OneWeb plans as they are springing from the drawing boards in the following short courses:
The author of this article, Tom Logsdon, teaches short courses, on a regular basis, for the Applied Technology Institute in Riva, Maryland. Here is his upcoming schedule of courses:
|GPS and International Competitors||Dec 5-8, 2016||Colorado Springs, CO|
|GPS and International Competitors||Apr 17-20, 2017||Columbia,MD|
|Orbital & Launch Mechanics – Fundamentals||Jan 23-26, 2017||Albuquerque, NM|
|Orbital & Launch Mechanics – Fundamentals||Feb 28-Mar 3, 2017||Columbia, MD|
Click here for further information: ATIcourses, Tom Logsdon