WASHINGTON – OneWeb says it drastically reduces the size of a proposed next-generation satellite constellation that was originally planned to have nearly 48,000 satellites.
In a January 12 application to the Federal Communications Commission, OneWeb requested permission to modify an application filed in May requesting the launch of 47,844 satellites for its “Phase Two” construction. Instead, the company proposes a system with 6,372 satellites.
The revised constellation, OneWeb said in a January 13 statement, “demonstrates the commitment and vision” for its new owners, the UK government and Indian telecommunications company Bharti Global, to “roll out a cost-effective, responsible and groundbreaking satellite network to deliver globally. broadband. ”
The original Phase Two proposal submitted to the FCC envisaged a system of 32 aircraft with 720 satellites each with an inclination of 40 degrees, 32 aircraft with 720 satellites each with an inclination of 55 degrees and 36 aircraft with 49 satellites each with an inclination of 87.9 degrees, a total of 47,844 satellites, all in orbit 1
The revised system retains the same number and arrangement of orbital planes, but reduces the number of satellites in each of the 40- and 55-degree planes from 720 to 72. The satellites in the 87.9-degree orbital planes are unchanged, reducing the total size of the system to 6,372 satellites.
“OneWeb expects that this revised implementation plan for the Phase 2 constellation will enable it to achieve superior end-user throughput and spectral efficiency, while reducing funding needs and promoting OneWeb’s vision of ‘Responsible Space’,” the company said in its FCC filing. . “This change is an integral part of OneWeb’s commitment to supporting the long – term use of space for all by preserving the orbital environment.”
Despite the fact that the constellation size was reduced by more than 85%, OneWeb asked the FCC to consider the change as “smaller” according to its priority assessment rules for different applications. The company said it is not making other changes, such as frequency allocations, for the system, so “this proposed reduction in satellites will not increase the potential interference” for other systems.
It is not clear how serious OneWeb was in its original proposal to launch nearly 48,000 satellites. The company filed the application as it was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy and had suspended the rollout of its first generation system. This implementation resumed in December after the company came out of Chapter 11 under its new ownership.
The size of the system, larger than any other proposed constellation, troubled some in the field’s sustainability due to the increased risk of orbital residues. Astronomers were also concerned that the satellites would pose an even greater risk to their observations than SpaceX’s Starlink system.
“Clearly, a huge constellation of 50,000 high-altitude satellites is the most threatening to visible astronomy,” said Olivier Hainaut, an astronomer at the European Southern Observatory, during a conference session in July on the impact of satellite mega constellations on astronomy.