Mar 28, 2020 - Science

OneWeb files for bankruptcy amid coronavirus pandemic

Bright lights illuminated on Earth seen from orbit at night.
Earth seen from orbit at night. Photo: NASA

OneWeb — a company that planned to bring high-speed internet to unconnected people around the world — filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Friday.

Why it matters: OneWeb was a frontrunner in the increasingly competitive race to beam back high-speed broadband from space using large constellations of small satellites in low orbits.

Details: The company is planning to use the bankruptcy to pursue a sale, a statement from OneWeb reads.

  • According OneWeb, the company had a difficult time securing funding in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • "Our current situation is a consequence of the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis," OneWeb CEO Adrian Steckel said in the statement. "We remain convinced of the social and economic value of our mission to connect everyone everywhere. Today is a difficult day for us at OneWeb."
  • OneWeb — which has launched 74 satellites — sent its last batch of spacecraft to orbit on March 21.

The big picture: OneWeb's exit leaves SpaceX's Starlink constellation as the clear frontrunner in this portion of the space industry, with Amazon's Kuiper also on the horizon.

  • These companies think that constellations of small satellites could blanket the globe with internet, bringing millions of people online that currently have little or no access to high-speed internet.
  • Others worry that these large batches of satellites could clutter up space and even impair astronomers' ability to study the cosmos.

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