Delighted to watch OneWeb blast its first rocket carrying six satellites into space. I was in Kourou, French Guiana to see the important milestone in our efforts to connect the billions of people in the world who are not connected.
Everything went very well and it was exciting watching the launch and seeing the team watch their hard work coming to fruition. In order to perfect the network we need to start putting the satellites into space and broadcasting back to earth – which I’m pleased to say has happened overnight with all of the first six satellites.
Watching the rocket fly, it felt a long way from the roots of OneWeb, when OneWeb founder Greg Wyler and I had a conversation at the bar on Necker. I loved the idea for a revolutionary new business, Greg secured the best satellite slots in the skies, and Virgin become founding investors in OneWeb alongside Greg and Qualcomm.
We then built a wonderful group of investors, including SoftBank, Coca-Cola, Salinas and Airbus, who built the satellites alongside OneWeb, a UK-headquartered company. The company, led by new CEO Adrian Steckel, is well ahead of the competition in what is a thriving new sector.
Once fully operational, One Web will have a constellation of around 600 satellites, scaling to around 2000, which will provide people in remote and rural area with affordable high-speed internet access. This will open up huge opportunities for development, education and entrepreneurship, bridging the digital divide.
Virgin Orbit, our dedicated small satellite launch business, is perfectly placed to help make OneWeb’s mission possible. We will provide frequent satellite launches at a much lower cost and with greater reliability, replacing satellites within 24 hours when they reach the end of their life span after around five years.
We are well underway with Virgin Orbit’s testing program, with our specially modified 747 Cosmic Girl completing a successful test flight with a rocket tucked under its wing last year. We look forward to reaching orbit with testing continuing apace the coming months.