Virgin Galactic to launch world’s largest satellite network to improve global Internet access

Virgin Galactic will help launch the world’s largest ever satellite network, bringing high speed Internet to parts of the globe currently without access.

OneWeb will be responsible for the construction of the satellites, while Virgin Galactic’s LauncherbaOne programme will be tasked with placing them into orbit.

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Virgin Galactic’s founder Sir Richard Branson claims that the scheme has the potential to transform lives.

“We have the biggest order ever for putting satellites into space,” he said. “By the time our second constellation is developed, the company will have launched more satellites than there currently are in the sky.

“The Virgin Group and Qualcomm Incorporated are the principle investors in OneWeb Ltd and I am looking forward to sitting alongside OneWeb Ltd Founder Greg Wyler and Qualcomm Chairman Dr Paul Jacobs on the company’s board.”

Currently, less than half of the world’s population are able to access the Internet, with a number of high-profile technology companies looking to improve the situation. Facebook recently expanded its Internet.org project, for example, which offers free online services in Africa and other parts of the world where Internet access is problematic.

“People who don’t currently have access to proper teaching will be able to receive educations,” Mr Branson said. “People who want to create jobs will be able to develop new businesses connecting with the rest of the world. The opportunities are endless.”

Virgin has previously claimed that it will be ready to launch by 2016, but it is likely that the LauncherOne spacecraft will have to undergo some modifications in order to carry the OneWeb satellites.

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The Wall Street Journal reports that OneWeb’s modules will weigh 285 pounds and orbit at an altitude of 750 miles, both of which exceed the stated limitations of the LauncherOne craft. Given that these hurdles will need to be overcome, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the 2016 launch data pushed back.