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OneWeb says it will have to cut workers amid economic crisis, Ars Technica

OneWeb says it will have to cut workers amid economic crisis, Ars Technica

      TwoWeb –


“Unfortunately, we think it is inevitable that there will be delays.”




On Saturday the global communications company OneWeb launched its second large batch of satellites into low-Earth orbit — the additional 74 spacecraft brought its overall constellation to 74 satellites. The launch occurred on a Soyuz rocket, which lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

After the launch, OneWeb Chief Executive Adrian Steckel sought to put the launch in the context of the global pandemic of Covid – by highlighting connectivity as an essential service.

“People around the world find themselves trying to continue their lives and work online,” he said . “We see the need for OneWeb, greater now more than ever before . High-quality connectivity is the lifeline to enabling people to work, continue their education, stay up to date on important healthcare information and stay meaningfully connected to one another. “

Fiscal concerns

However, even before Saturday’s launch, there were warning signs on the horizon. Last week,

Bloomberg reported that OneWeb is considering filing for bankruptcy protection as it deals with a cash crunch.

In recent years, OneWeb has raised nearly $ 3 billion from SoftBank as it has sought to ramp up production capability for its kg satellites in Florida, secure launch contracts to get them into orbit, and obtain regulatory approvals. This difficulty comes just as the global economy is entering a downturn due to Covid – .

Prior to Saturday’s launch, OneWeb acknowledging these financial difficulties in a statement, saying it was contemplating the need to “dynamically adjust” its workforce. “Unfortunately, we think it is inevitable that there will be delays to our launch schedule and satellite manufacturing due to increasing travel restrictions and the disruption of supply chains globally,” the company said . “Therefore, we made the difficult decision to eliminate some roles and responsibilities as we work to focus on core operations.”

It is not clear precisely what effect these financing concerns will have on OneWeb’s plans for 19 launches this year, each carrying to satellites per flight. The company has said its initial network will comprise 800 satellites, suggesting that full commercial service will be unavailable before late , at the earliest.

If OneWeb needs to raise additional capital to build its network, the prospect of a global economic downturn and impending bankruptcy cannot be helpful.

Shotwell’s advice

Although about half a dozen companies have proposed establishing broadband constellations in low-Earth orbit, OneWeb has been notable because aside from SpaceX and its Starlink constellation (577 satellites launched to date), only OneWeb has been putting hardware into orbit.

SpaceX has a distinct advantage in being a vertically integrated company, meaning that it cannot only build its satellites in-house, it can launch them on Falcon 9 rockets. And it does not hurt that the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage has now been shown to be capable of at least five flights into orbit — meaning SpaceX can push the limits of reuse and low cost with its rockets.

SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said as much last fall, when she discussed the financial prospects of OneWeb at an investor conference . Trying to build a network without low-cost launch, she suggested, could be financially disastrous.

“If you’re thinking about investing in OneWeb, I would recommend strongly against it,” Shotwell said in October. “They fooled some people who are going to be pretty disappointed in the near term. “


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