One week after the OneWeb executive assured British officials that the business would shift production of the second generation of the satellites to the UK, another executive stated that the company had still to decide where those satellites will be built. Chris McLaughlin, OneWeb’s chief in charge of the government, regulatory affairs, as well as engagement, told the UK Parliament’s science and technology committee on December 8 that the company planned to develop a second generation of the satellites in the UK beginning in the decade’s middle.
When asked if there were any preparations to move satellite manufacturing to the country, he replied, “To your spot about whether we are going to bring the production plant to the England, the answer is yes. Gen 2 and associated technology will be built in the United Kingdom.”
He said OneWeb planned to invest about $3 billion in the growth of the second constellation, and that those plans were independent of any financial assistance from the British government, which is one of OneWeb’s largest shareholders. “We’ll start planning Gen 2 in the year 2022, so we’ll be constructing in the UK by 2024-25.”
Massimiliano Ladovaz, who serves as the chief technology officer (CTO) of OneWeb, contended during a panel discussion at Euroconsult’s World Satellite Business Week on December 14 that those comments were misunderstood in media reports following the hearing.
“We’re still figuring out how the entire Gen 2 supply chain will be deployed,” he said. “We’re not denying that there will be a significant presence in the United Kingdom. But we’ll look at the best of the best in every class.”
According to Ladovaz, the company has sent out requests for information on its Gen 2 plans, which will be followed by “competitive” requests for proposals. He said, “We’ll take the best.” The current generation of OneWeb satellites is manufactured in a joint venture (JV) with Airbus in a production plant in Florida that launched in 2019. Before the Florida production plant opened, Airbus created an initial batch of satellites at a factory in Toulouse, France. In addition, the corporation has a strong presence in the United Kingdom.
Jean-Marc Nasr, Airbus’ executive vice president in charge of the space systems, said in a December 14 interview that he was willing to develop the satellites where OneWeb desired. “Wherever the customers are, we’ll build the second-generation satellites,” he said. “Nothing is set in stone.”
He went on to say that the joint venture, not OneWeb alone, owned the key intellectual asset for the satellites. “We’re OneWeb’s first-generation partner.” “On Gen 2,” he said, “we support OneWeb.” “We’ll build satellites in the United Kingdom, the United States, and France, depending on customer demand.”
He added that Airbus was looking for new clients for satellites that could be constructed at the Florida factory using a bus similar to the OneWeb design. “Thanks to this investment, I’m seeing an increasing number of clients who are heavily interested in the regular version of our bus,” he said, adding that “many U.S. prospects” are among them. However, he declined to discuss specific opportunities. “Wait and see.”