Richard Branson plans to launch 648 small satellites for broadband

Virgin Galactic CEO Richard Branson has announced that he wants to launch an entire constellation of small satellites into space that will be used to deliver broadband connectivity. The satellites will be used by a company called OneWeb to deliver broadband to millions of users around the world who don't currently have access to broadband internet. To start with 648 satellites would be launched.

Eventually Branson wants to have as many as 2400 satellites in orbit. The first 648 satellites would be placed in low-Earth orbit. OneWeb has backing from Qualcomm to provide the global internet service using the satellites. OneWeb wouldn't provide the broadband access directly to customers; the company has said that it would work with local providers to provide service.

When working with carriers the OneWeb hardware would act as cells to provide an area with WiFi, LTE, 3D, or 2G connectivity using the operator partners existing licensed spectrum. The company could also offer LTE or WiFi on unlicensed spectrum.

According to Branson, the satellites would be launched using a two-stage rocket that is in development called LauncherOne. That rocket itself would be launched by the WhiteKnightTwo aircraft at about 45,000 to 50,000 feet in the air. LauncherOne would be able to deliver up to 500 pounds to low inclination Low Earth Orbit or 256 pounds to a high-altitude Sun-Synchronous orbit for under $10 million.

SOURCE: NetworkWorld