A Slow Crawl To High-Speed Internet Dominance. A British Company Is Racing Musk And Bezos Into Space, But At Their Own Speed.

In this handout photo released by Roscosmos Space Agency Press Service, A Soyuz-2.1b launch vehicle takes-off with another 34 OneWeb satellites from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan, Saturday, March 21, 2020. (Roscosmos Space Agency Press Service via AP)

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has a rivalry, though it’s more of a tortoise-and-hare situation at this point.

And OneWeb is just fine with that characterization.

OneWeb, the United Kingdom company, has 146 satellites that beam internet down to Earth.

Musk and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos have big plans for satellites, and OneWeb’s chief of government, regulation and engagement Chris McLaughlin said that’s not a “responsible way forward for the next generations.”

SpaceX has around 1,300 satellites at 550 kilometers in orbit and plans to launch a staggering total of 42,000 by mid-2027.

OneWeb plans to have 648 satellites at more than twice the orbit height, having most recently launched more than 140 satellites on March 25.

“We’re beginning to think less is more,” McLaughlin said.

Bezos hasn’t launched any satellites for Amazon’s Project Kuiper yet, but aims for 3,236 in orbit soon.

“(Musk and Bezos) both want to put them up in the same place at 550 km and have nobody else in their way,” said McLaughlin, who is pleased with the British contribution to the space industry.

“Who knew that Britain was in the space business?” he said.

Starlink operates in six countries worldwide, but OneWeb says its tactics are deliberately slower.

“Do you want the low Earth orbit completely messed up because of collisions between two billionaires’ satellites?” McLaughlin said. “Or would you prefer a more gradualist approach, like OneWeb is doing?”

OneWeb delivers internet service to telecommunications companies who distribute the internet.

SpaceX goes directly to the consumers, who can set up the $499 Starlink kit from their homes.

“We are not going down the ‘send you a box and tell you to install it’ route,” said McLaughlin. 

OneWeb users more likely will have an antenna mounted on their house, rather than a satellite dish.

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