Loft Orbital, a condosat operator, has placed an order with Airbus for over 15 satellite buses, according to a deal revealed on January 14 that calls for the maiden OneWeb-derived platforms to be built in France before serial manufacturing is moved to Florida. Loft Orbital anticipates receiving the buses in 2023, utilizing the automated production process that Airbus is using to produce hundreds of satellites for OneWeb’s broadband megaconstellation through the Airbus OneWeb Satellites JV (joint venture) in Florida.

Modifications to the Arrow satellite platform, such as prolonging operational life and expanding the range of capabilities outside broadband, will begin at Airbus’ Toulouse facility. Airbus said the additional Arrow-derived platforms would be manufactured at scale by the Airbus OneWeb Satellites (AOS) after the first few were built in France. In Merritt Island, Florida, the joint venture’s automated production line was meant to manufacture up to two satellites every day.

Despite the fact that the majority of Loft Orbital’s order is scheduled to be fulfilled at Airbus’ Florida factory, the deal is a strong success for France, as per a senior French government member quoted in the Airbus press release. “I am very delighted that the initiative proposed by Loft with Airbus depends on French suppliers, with over 60% of the value created in France,” stated Bruno Le Maire, France’s Economy, Finances, and Recovery Minister, in a statement. Loft Orbital, situated in San Francisco, buys satellite buses from a variety of vendors and rigs them with payloads carried on behalf of its customers who don’t want to deal with the inconvenience and cost of owning satellites.

While Loft Orbital plans to utilize its initial Arrow procurement “to deliver to our clients who have purchased services centered on a few tens of satellites,” co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Pierre-Damien Vaujour see this as a chance to provide much larger constellation facilities to governments and companies around the world. In an interview with SpaceNews, he said the Arrow-derived bus is going to serve as the company’s “workhorse satellite platform,” leveraging the AOS factory’s scalability and pedigree.

 

Expansion

Loft Orbital recently announced that it had bought more buses from LeoStella after obtaining unknown customers interested in flying payloads in 2023. Loft Orbital has already contracted LeoStella to develop a bus for a satellite which will be launched in the first part of this year. A bus provided by Blue Canyon Technologies will be used by a different Loft Orbital satellite scheduled to launch near the end of 2022.

Loft Orbital is currently operating two condosats with LeoStella and Blue Canyon buses. Loft Orbital’s deal for Arrow, according to Vaujour, is the first time a mass-produced megaconstellation bus has also been sold to a private third party for non-broadband payloads.

“It’s on a fundamentally different scale than anything we or the industry has done previously,” he said. Loft Orbital intends to receive the Arrow-derived buses in 2023, with at least some of them being used for satellites scheduled to deploy later that year on the request of a backlog of clients, according to Vaujour.

“We’ve secured well over $100 million in bookings,” Vaujour stated, adding that the Loft Orbital company has been “turning away consumers because of a lack of bandwidth.”

“With established prices, we can easily activate a buy order for any variety of additional satellites,” he added of the Arrow contract. Loft Orbital’s plans to expand its business with a flurry of satellite bus contracts follow a $140 million funding round led by investment firm BlackRock that closed in October.

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