London-based OneWeb, which is constructing a satellite tv for pc constellation to ship web connections, has acquired a major investment from Eutelsat.
The Paris-based firm is placing $550m (£400m) into OneWeb, for a 24% fairness stake.
This will likely be seen as a giant vote of confidence within the OneWeb venture.
Eutelsat is without doubt one of the prime three satellite-telecommunications operators for “fixed services”, reminiscent of direct-to-home TV, cellphone and information connections.
OneWeb was purchased out of chapter final yr by the British authorities and Indian conglomerate Bharti Global, with which Eutelsat will now share comparable governance rights.
The investment additionally closes the hole in funding OneWeb wants to finish its mega-constellation within the sky.
On Sunday, it put up one other 36 spacecraft, taking its whole in-orbit community to 182.
But to offer web connections across the globe, it is going to want, initially, 648.
At the beginning of the yr, the London firm, based mostly within the BBC’s previous buildings in White City, estimated it required about $1bn to complete development.
On Tuesday, new chief govt Neil Masterson stated: “We are delighted with the investment from Eutelsat, which validates our strategy, technology and commercial approach.
“We now have 80% of the mandatory financing for the Gen 1 fleet, of which practically 30% is already in house.
“Eutelsat’s global distribution network advances the market entry opportunities for OneWeb.
“And we look ahead to working collectively to capitalise on the expansion alternative and speed up the tempo of execution.”
Eutelsat operates its spacecraft from geostationary (GEO) orbit, about 36,000km (22,000 miles) above the Earth, giving the satellites a fixed, continuous view of the region on the Earth’s surface they serve.
OneWeb, on the other hand, is putting its mega-constellation in low-Earth orbit (LEO), just 1,200km above the planet.
This will mean users experience a much-reduced lag (latency) in the time it takes to make an enquiry online and receive an answer – something like tens of milliseconds versus perhaps hundreds of milliseconds for GEO satellites.
And marrying both LEO and GEO should open up business opportunities, Eutelsat chief executive Rodolphe Belmer said.
“We are excited to turn out to be a shareholder and accomplice in OneWeb within the run-up to its business launch later within the yr and to take part within the substantial alternative represented by the LEO phase inside our trade,” he said.
“We are assured in OneWeb’s proper to win, due to its earliness to market, precedence spectrum rights and evolving, scalable know-how.”
OneWeb’s chief competitor in the LEO internet mega-constellation business is Starlink, which is being set up by the Californian rocket company SpaceX.
Starlink has more than 1,300 satellites in orbit, with thousands more to follow.
Other major projects in development in this particular sector include:
Kuiper, a subsidiary of on-line retailer Amazon
Lightspeed, a mega-constellation plan from the long-established Canadian satellite-communications firm Telesat
The European Union and the Chinese authorities are additionally speaking up major networks of their very own.