Washington — OneWeb said it is significantly reducing the size of the proposed next-generation satellite constellation, which was originally envisaged to have nearly 48,000 satellites.
In a document submitted to the Federal Communications Commission on January 12, OneWeb sought permission to modify an application filed in May, which required the launch of 47,844 satellites for its “phase two” constellation. Instead, the company proposed a system with 6,372 satellites.
OneWeb stated in its January 13 statement that the revised constellation “demonstrates the commitment and vision of its new owner, the British government and Indian telecommunications company Bharti Global”
The original Phase II proposal submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) envisages a system consisting of 32 planes with 720 satellites tilted each; 32 planes with 720 satellites tilted at 55 degrees each; and 36 Flat, 49 satellites each tilted. 87.9 degrees, a total of 47,844 satellites, all in an orbit of 1,200 kilometers. These will be in addition to the initial constellation of approximately 650 satellites currently being deployed by the company, which will not be affected by the proposed modifications.
The revised system retains the same number and arrangement of orbital planes, but reduces the number of each satellite in the 40-degree and 55-degree planes from 720 to 72. The satellites in the 87.9-degree orbital plane remain unchanged, which reduces the total size of the system to 6,372 satellites.
The company stated in a document submitted to the FCC: “OneWeb hopes that its revised deployment plan for the second phase of the constellation will enable it to achieve outstanding end-user throughput and spectrum efficiency, while reducing funding requirements and promoting OneWeb’s’responsibility space’ Vision.” “This amendment is an integral part of OneWeb’s commitment to support the long-term use of space for all by maintaining the orbital environment.”
Despite reducing the size of the constellation diagram by more than 85%, OneWeb requires the FCC to consider the amendment as “minor” under its rules for evaluating the priority of various applications. The company stated that it will not make other changes to the system, such as frequency allocation, so “the proposed reduction in satellite transmission will not increase potential interference from other systems.”
It is not clear how serious OneWeb’s initial proposal to launch nearly 48,000 satellites is. The company filed the application when it went bankrupt in Chapter 11 and suspended the deployment of its first-generation system. After the company withdrew from Chapter 11 with new ownership, the deployment resumed in December.
Due to the increased risk of orbital debris, the scale of the system is larger than any other proposed constellation, which shocked some in the field of space sustainability. Astronomers are also worried that compared with SpaceX’s Starlink system, these satellites pose greater risks to their observations.
Olivier Hainaut, an astronomer at the European Southern Observatory, spoke about the impact of giant satellites on astronomy at a meeting in July: “Obviously, the 50,000 huge constellations at high altitude have a significant impact on visible astronomy. The threat is greatest.”