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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

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
44 mins ago - Health

Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Biden's plan to accelerate the reopening of K-8 schools faces major challenges from a still out-of-control pandemic and more contagious coronavirus variants.

Why it matters: The longer American kids miss in-person schooling, the further they fall behind. But the uncertain state of the science on the role young children play in the pandemic continues to complicate efforts to reopen schools.

Focus group: Former Trump voters say he should never hold office again

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

"Relief" is the top emotion some swing voters who used to support Donald Trump say they felt as they watched President Biden's swearing-in, followed by "hope."

Why it matters: For voters on the bubble between parties, this moment is less about excitement for Biden or liberal politics than exhaustion and disgust with Trump and a craving for national healing. Most said Trump should be prohibited from ever holding office again.

Updated 15 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong to put tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.