Feb 6, 2020 - Science

OneWeb launches batch of internet-beaming satellites to orbit

Miriam Kramer, author of Space

OneWeb's satellites ahead of launch. Photo:

OneWeb — a company hoping to bring broadband to millions of underserved users around the world — launched 34 of its internet-beaming satellites to orbit on Thursday.

Why it matters: A number of companies, including SpaceX and Amazon, are also planning to launch their own broadband constellations, making this a growing but competitive part of the space industry.

Details: This launch marks the beginning of a series of launches this year designed to build out OneWeb's satellite constellation.

  • The company plans to provide partial coverage by the end of the year with full global services starting in 2021.
  • In total, the company plans to have 648 satellites as part of the initial constellation.
  • OneWeb launched six satellites to orbit last year.

Between the lines: OneWeb is also focused on making sure that it's a responsible user of space.

  • The company is planning to affix its satellite with grappling technology that will allow a satellite servicing craft to either deorbit or help fix any spacecraft that is no longer functional in orbit, preventing it from becoming space junk that might threaten other spacecraft.

The intrigue: It's still not clear exactly how much of a market there will be for these kinds of space-based internet services.

  • "We don't know how big the market is for consumer broadband, but it may not be much bigger than we have today," technology consultant Tim Farrar told Axios in November.
  • Astronomers are also worried about what these satellites will mean for the future of their profession, with thousands of internet-beaming spacecraft launching to orbit in the coming years that could streak through their images, obscuring faint objects in need of study like asteroids.

Go deeper

The latest: George Floyd protests nationwide

Police officers wearing riot gear push back demonstrators outside of the White House on Monday. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AFP via Getty Images

Protests over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black people continued for a seventh day across the U.S., with President Trump threatening on Monday to deploy the military if the unrest continues.

The latest: New York Attorney General Letitia James responded to Trump's comments by tweeting that he "is not a dictator & he doesn’t have the right to unilaterally deploy U.S. military across American states. We will guard the right to peaceful protest & will not hesitate to go to court to protect our constitutional rights during this time & well into the future."

2 hours ago - World

The world watches America burn

Newspaper front pages via the Newseum

The world is watching the grief and anger, violence and pain in America's streets.

The big picture: The U.S. accounts for nearly one-third of the world's deaths from COVID-19. The killing of a black man, George Floyd, by police has sparked days of protest and nights of chaos in America's major cities.

Trump walks to historic St. John's Church outside White House as protests rage

President Trump walked to the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church, located just steps away from the White House across Lafayette Park, on Monday night as protests linked to the murder of George Floyd raged across the capital and cities around the country.

What we're seeing: Military police and park rangers used physical force and tear gas on peaceful protestors to clear the area so that Trump could "pay respects" to the church that was damaged by a fire on Sunday.