On Monday, OneWeb Satellites celebrated the grand opening of its pristine 105,500 square-foot satellite factory in Kennedy Space Center’s Exploration Park.
“The opening of this facility marks the beginning of a new era for Florida, in which we will be manufacturing and continuing to develop the most advanced and affordable small communication satellites in the world. Right here in Florida,” said Frank Dibello, CEO of Space Florida, the aerospace economic develop agency for state.
The OneWeb Satellites facility will support 250 new high-tech jobs and 3,000 indirect jobs through its supply chain.
The company hopes to revolutionize the way satellites are built. The factory is a joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus and intends to be the first to mass produce satellites, assembly-line style in order to cut costs and increase volume. Traditional satellite manufacturing is a very hands-on and labor intensive process that generally yields one or two satellites a year. OneWeb Satellites plans to produce two a day.
“We are going to pioneer serial satellite production,” Tony Gingiss, CEO of OneWeb Satellites, said. “It’s something that has not been done in the industry.”
Guests sipped champagne and nibbled on crab and avocado salad while executives, industry leaders and politicians touted the job creation and economic benefit to the area. The event signaled the continued revitalization of the Space Coast hit hard after the Shuttle program ended in 2011.
“We’ve gone in eight years from 7,000 people losing their job at NASA to it’s a hard time to find enough people to work here, which is which is outstanding,” Sen. Rick Scott said.
Keith Bahn, a 24 yr. old mechanical engineer, began working for One Web Satellites immediately after graduating from Virginia Tech. He considered a job with SpaceX in Texas but OneWeb Satellites snapped him up first. “I think it’s an amazing opportunity to have the best of a huge company experience through Airbus with a much more start-up, close-knit company like OneWeb,” Bahn said.
His colleague John Start, a manufacturing engineer, joked that there is better surfing here anyway and added that Brevard really is the better choice because “This is the first, what we’re doing here is going to set the path for other companies.”
The company plans to launch a constellation of 650 satellites to low-earth orbit to offer global wireless internet service. Beyond that, the company will offer it services to other companies.
The first set of 34 satellites produced at the new facility is scheduled to launch in December on a Soyuz rocket in Kazakhstan but there is potential to launch from Kennedy Space Center in the future.