• OneWeb launches 34 new low orbit satellites
  • Reports claim company could seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection
  • OneWeb has confirmed laying off staff amid cash crisis

OneWeb launch

OneWeb launched 34 new satellites, but is facing a cash crisis

Satellite firm OneWeb launched 34 new satellites over the weekend while reports point to the firm potentially filing for bankruptcy protection.

A Soyuz rocket lifted off from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, carrying 34 more spacecraft into orbit to continue the build-up of the firm’s broadband internet constellation.

The launch means the company, which is backed by Japanese giant SoftBank, now has 74 Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites in operation.

On the launch OneWeb chief executive Adrian Steckel said: “We are very proud of the progress we have made so far in 2020 and I would like to show the utmost gratitude for the time, effort, and expertise of the OneWeb company, our partners and our people as we come together and support one another.

“In these unprecedented times following the global outbreak of Covid-19, people around the world find themselves trying to continue their lives and work online.

“We see the need for OneWeb, greater now more than ever before. High-quality connectivity is the lifeline to enabling people to work, continue their education, stay up to date on important healthcare information and stay meaningfully connected to one another.

“The crisis has demonstrated the imperative need for connectivity everywhere and has exposed urgent shortcomings in many organisations’ connectivity capabilities. Our satellite network is poised to fill in many of these critical gaps in the global communications infrastructure.”

However, a report from Bloomberg claims the company is examining different options to stave off cashflow problems, including filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Despite receiving backing from Japanese telco SoftBank to the tune of around $3 billion, it has faced increased competition from SpaceX and Amazon.

Further reports claim the company is planning to lay off around 10% of its workforce. OneWeb has acknowledged that it needs to “dynamically adjust our workforce” but has refused to comment on the bankruptcy reports.

The company also acknowledged that the global health economic crisis caused by the spread of coronavirus will impact its launch schedule.

OneWeb’s aim is to create a mega-constellation of satellites with 648 LEOs in operation by the end of 2021.

According to a report from Techcrunch, a spokesperson for the satellite company said the company has “made the difficult decision to eliminate some roles and responsibilities as we work to focus on core operations. We are sorry to have had to take this step and we’re doing everything we can to support those affected.”