CAVU Aerospace UK Ltd

Published on 29/01/2024

Airbus takes over Space Coast constellation factory

TAMPA, Fla. — Eutelsat OneWeb has sold its 50% share of the factory that built more than 600 satellites for its low Earth orbit constellation (LEO) to Airbus, the operator’s joint venture partner.
Airbus said Jan. 29 it is now the sole owner of Airbus OneWeb Satellites (AOS) in Merritt Island, adjacent to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, which it has repurposed for other commercial and government customers.
Financial details were not disclosed.
In its peak, the eight-year-old facility’s semi-automated production line was producing two satellites daily for OneWeb’s first-generation broadband constellation.
The operator fully deployed the network in LEO last year, although global coverage has slipped to later in 2024 following delays with the ground segment.
AOS facilities have since been modified to accommodate Arrow, a satellite platform based on the 150-kilogram Eutelsat OneWeb spacecraft.
AOS has sold 30 Arrow-derived satellite buses to Loft Orbital, a San Francisco condosat operator that buys satellite buses from multiple vendors and outfits them with payloads flown on behalf of customers.
Airbus U.S. Space & Defense is also providing 58 upgraded Arrow450 satellites out of AOS for Northrop Grumman for the Space Development Agency Tranche 1 tracking and transport layers.
The factory was involved in work for the Blackjack LEO constellation, under a contract from Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency with Airbus U.S. Space & Defense, but DARPA downsized the project.
“We will continue mass producing small satellites for our customers and are excited for what the future holds for us on Florida’s Space Coast as we move forward,” said Robert Geckle, chair and CEO of Airbus U.S. Space & Defense.
Eutelsat Group, Eutelsat OneWeb’s parent company that also operates geostationary satellites, said the sale will help efforts to reduce debt.
Eutelsat OneWeb is currently looking for a manufacturer to build a second-generation LEO constellation it has estimated would cost around $4 billion.
Eutelsat Group spokesperson Joanna Darlington told SpaceNews Airbus will continue to be “considered with others as a potential supplier” following the Airbus OneWeb Satellites sale.
France-based Airbus also has satellite manufacturing facilities in Europe. The first six of OneWeb’s first-generation satellites were built in Toulouse, France.