Taxpayer-backed satellite operator OneWeb has announced this afternoon that it plans to spend $3bn (£2.2bn) to move manufacturing from the US to the UK.
Chris McLaughlin, OneWeb’s head of government affairs, told MPs that it would start work next year on a manufacturing programme before starting to build satellites by 2025 in an attempt to push the UK’s growing space industry.
The government paid $500m to rescue OneWeb from bankruptcy last year, and the new move would create one of the UK’s largest space projects, as reported in The Telegraph.
The UK’s stake has since been reduced to 24 per cent due to further investments from Eutelsat and other space companies, although the Government retains a “golden share”.
This means that government would get a final say over other countries accessing its technology.
The space firm plans to have a network of 588 satellites in space by the middle of next year, enough to provide global internet coverage.
McLaughlin told MPs on the Commons science and technology committee: “By 2024-25 we will be building in the UK,” he said.It is understood the deal could include continuing its work with Airbus or choosing a new manufacturing partner.Britain is seen as a global leader in small satellites, with bases in Glasgow and the south of England, but the industry was hit by moves to move work on the EU’s Galileo navigation programme out of Britain.”
OneWeb has also secured investment from SoftBank and South Korea’s Hanwha in the last year, but is likely to need to raise new funds to finance its second generation.
OneWeb is working with BT on launching a satellite internet service in the UK next week, and is currently testing its services in Alaska.