Picture courtesy of AirbusAirbus
has been contracted to supply space start-up Loft Orbital
with more than 15 satellite platforms derived from the Airbus Arrow platform. Arrow is the foundational satellite platform of the OneWeb constellation.
There are 394 Airbus Arrow platforms in orbit for the OneWeb constellation and a further 254 are being produced to complete the 648 spacecraft required by OneWeb. With this acquisition, Loft Orbital confirms its intention to make the Airbus Arrow platform a true workhorse enabling its service business model.
Loft Orbital offers a true end-to-end service enabling customers to rapidly deploy and operate their payloads on reliable high-performance satellites at an unprecedented simplicity and affordability and the company has also contracted Airbus to modify the Arrow platform to make it suitable for a wider range of longer lifetime missions and applications.
Loft Orbital has offices both in the USA and France, being based in Silicon Valley in San Francisco, and in Toulouse, and intends to continue rapidly growing its French presence following this contract relationship with Airbus.
Airbus previously benefitted from public support to develop the Arrow platform and OneWeb pilot line in Toulouse.
Bruno Le Maire, French minister for the Economy, Finances and the Recovery, said: “This ground-breaking contract between start-up Loft Orbital and global space leader Airbus is a very good news. It demonstrates the uptake of new space companies in France and the synergy across the space ecosystem for developing industry-wide innovation.
“It also testifies the speed at which the French space ecosystem is growing, with start-ups, SMEs, and large groups working together to provide world-class solutions, and fully validates the ongoing government strategy and initiatives to develop a vibrant and growing space innovation ecosystem. I am very pleased that the project presented by Loft with the support of Airbus relies on French suppliers, more than 60% of the value being created in France.”
Jean-Marc Nasr, head of Airbus Space Systems, said: “This sale of our small LEO platform Arrow to Loft Orbital is a ringing endorsement of our strategy to develop mass manufacturing for the next space era.
“Our reliable platform is already proving its worth in orbit for OneWeb which has more than 60% of its fleet in orbit. We look forward to working with Loft Orbital to provide them with the best space technology possible — combining industrially-proven know-how with disruptive innovations — to serve its customers.”
Loft Orbital CEO Pierre-Damien Vaujour said: “We are beyond excited about this procurement agreement with Airbus that is an industry first. Leveraging Airbus engineering experience and Airbus OneWeb Satellites production capabilities is enabling us to truly bring our vision to life.
“While we are using this initial procurement to deliver to our customers who have ordered services based on a few tens of satellites, we see this as an opportunity to offer much larger constellation services to governments and companies worldwide. In addition, the level of support we have received in France, and the quality of the engineering talent, is simply unmatched and we are looking forward to growing the company here in Toulouse.”
The improvements to the Arrow platform, including all the engineering, qualification, test, and production of the first few spacecraft will be performed by Airbus in Toulouse. The production at scale of the remaining Arrow-derived platforms will be performed by Airbus OneWeb Satellites (AOS).
Airbus Space’s strategy of ‘Next Space’ will seek further engagement with new players in the space ecosystem to ensure that sustainability and reliability in the LEO space environment is guaranteed for the future.