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Constellations of opportunities
Airbus satellites are mission enablers for satellite constellations of today and tomorrow.
Constellations of opportunities
by Staff Writers
Toulouse, France (SPX) Mar 28, 2023

The growing number of satellite constellations is opening exciting new opportunities for everything from improved connectivity and communications to enhanced observation and security - with Airbus taking a lead enabler role through its small, capable spacecraft that are made on a digitised production line.

In fact, Airbus has redefined how satellites are built - streamlining the traditional manufacturing cycle from years to an output of two per day, while reducing the mass from several tonnes to just 150 kg., and building them at approximately 1/50th of the cost.

This expertise was once again brought to the fore last weekend, with the 18th launch of OneWeb satellites bringing the total number in orbit to over 600. This is a key milestone in the company's mission to deliver connectivity anytime, anywhere as these final satellites will enable the company to offer , globally later this year. OneWeb is among the first low-Earth orbit operators to complete its constellation for global coverage and is already setting its sights on a second generation system.

Weighing in at a baseline mass of approximately 150 kg each, the OneWeb spacecraft were built by Airbus OneWeb Satellites, a 50/50 joint venture that brings Airbus' space-related engineering and technical expertise together with the vision and market disruption strategy of its industrial partner, OneWeb Satellites.

Innovative and affordable satellite platforms
The OneWeb constellation is based on Airbus' innovative and affordable satellite platform which is tailored for such high-performance space applications as connectivity, communications, and machine-to-machine (M2M) services, along with Earth observation, reconnaissance, and maritime/aviation relay. "Airbus is bringing a true revolution for the satellite manufacturing industry, benefitting from our ability to optimise the entire satellite ecosystem - from payloads and platforms to end-to-end space systems," said Jean Marc Nasr, Head of Space Systems at Airbus. "The real impact will be felt in what these systems can enable and their ability to change the world. Airbus is proud to be part of this story."

Building on Airbus OneWeb Satellites' success in producing standardised commercial satellites at high rates and managed costs, Airbus has expanded its customer base while also broadening the spacecraft product line and the missions performed.

In America, Airbus U.S. is providinge its next generation satellite platforms to Northrop Grumman for the U.S. Space Development Agency's prototype military data and connectivity constellation. The platforms will expand the current Airbus satellite design, providing more power and accommodating a larger payload in a modular solution. This will enable Airbus to offer a scalable 300-500 kg. spacecraft bus, as well as for future U.S. government missions.

Airbus is also supporting the "new space" economy: as a supplier to Loft Orbital - a space sector startup - which is creating a "satellite as a service" business model. These platforms will be produced by Airbus for Loft Orbital, who see this innovative platform as an enabler to meet a wider range of missions and applications while offering even longer lifetimes in orbit.

Constellations are also a hot topic in Europe with the recent announcement that the European Union is pressing ahead with its own multi-orbit constellation which will act as a vector of European sovereignty for secure connectivity and resilience in an increasingly contested world - and Airbus intends to harness its systems expertise in shaping this future.

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