Space company OneWeb is bankrupt. The London-based company built a satellite network to provide high-speed internet around the world and had already launched dozens of satellites into orbit. The company is laying off employees because it was unable to get new investments.
OneWeb filed for bankruptcy in the United States on Friday, The Financial Times reported. The company is laying off most of its 500 employees. OneWeb was in the middle of a process to raise new investments, but it was ultimately unsuccessful. Major investor Softbank also decided not to make an additional investment at the last minute. This was partly because the investment company wants to spend less money due to the corona crisis. According to the Financial Times, Softbank and OneWeb were unable to agree on a temporary loan to bridge the search for new investors.
OneWeb launched 34 new satellites last week. Together with the existing 40 artificial moons, OneWeb now has 74 satellites orbiting the Earth. The company planned to eventually launch 650 of these into space. The satellites weigh about 150 kilos, and would fly in a constellation to provide the entire world with internet. There are other companies that have that plan, but next to SpaceX’s Starlink, the OneWeb constellation was one of the few that was already at a more advanced stage. There are still ‘a few dozen’ employees working at OneWeb to keep the current satellites operational. This is partly intended to allow the company to keep its broadcasting licenses.
OneWeb mainly relied on investments for its financing. In March of last year, the company raised $1.25 billion. The Japanese Softbank Group was one of the largest investors at the time. The money also came from Qualcomm, Airbus and entrepreneur Richard Branson. Along with previous rounds, OneWeb had raised $3.4 billion. OneWeb explicitly focused on combating the digital divide in the world.