OneWeb names winners of 2021 Innovation Challenge

by

Update: This article was updated July 7 at 10:50 Eastern time with comments from a OneWeb news release.

SAN FRANCISCO – IRT Saint Exupéry, Mbryonics, Morpheus Space, Oledcomm and R3-IoT were the winners of OneWeb’s 2021 Innovation Challenge, a campaign to designed to “rethink satellite connectivity” and establish new partnerships, according to London-based OneWeb.

OneWeb announced the winners July 1 during an online event tracking the launch of 36 broadband communications satellites on an Arianespace Soyuz rocket from Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome.

The five Industrial Challenge winners “will now enter a co-engineering phase together with OneWeb to further develop their ideas,” OneWeb said in a July 7 news release. 

In addition to the industry winners, OneWeb named three Innovation Challenge winners in the academic and research category. Munich-based Fraunhofer, the overall winner in this category, will be invited to attend a future OneWeb launch on an Arianespace rocket. The two runners up, Imperial College London and Digantara, an Indian space technology company, will work with OneWeb on an unspecified research and development project.

All the Innovation Challenge winners will have opportunities “to collaborate, grow and potentially secure a place in our global supply chain,” Massimiliano Ladovaz, OneWeb chief technology officer said in a statement. “We were blown away by the response to this challenge.” OneWeb “will continue to engage with many” Innovation Challenge participants, he added. 

OneWeb’s 2021 Innovation Challenge attracted more than 300 submissions from 19 countries in six weeks, Valery Gineste, OneWeb senior director of technologies, said during the broadcast. Companies and research organizations shared ideas ranging from sustainable materials and efficient propulsion to new satellite payloads and spaceflight safety improvements.

OneWeb is building a 648-satellite global broadband constellation. With the July 1 launch, OneWeb’s constellation grew to include 256 satellites.

When OneWeb announced the Innovation Challenge in April, it said firms would “compete in the Industrial Partners category to be part of co-engineering a new generation of satellite, with the opportunity to supply components for OneWeb’s constellation.”

Winners alluded to their hopes for joining OneWeb’s supply chain when sharing news of their victories.

“We will participate with R3 IoT Limited, Morpheus Space, Mbryonics and Oledcomm in the OneWeb adventure and will receive the opportunity to work on the OneWeb satellite program and drive the future of space communications,” France’s Institute of Technology Saint Exupéry posted July 5 on LinkedIn.

Mbyronics, based in Galway, Ireland, offered OneWeb optical terminals and photonics technology. “We greatly look forward to this opportunity of working with OneWeb on their mission to bridge the digital divide,” Mybronics’ posted July 1 on LinkedIn.

In a news release, R3-IoT of Scotland said being named a OneWeb Industrial Partner validated its business model, technology and “the hard work and dedication of our talented team.”

R3-IoT “can provide intelligent data solutions that extend beyond connectivity,” the news release added. “We aim to unlock new opportunities in key industrial sectors across the globe.”

Morpheus President Istvan Lorincz said the company was excited and humbled to have been selected from a huge pool of space companies.

OneWeb never issued a list of 2021 Innovation Challenge competitors, but named 14 finalists including Curtiss-Wright, Fujitsu and Spire Global.

Morpheus executives declined to say exactly what the firm shared with OneWeb through the Innovation Challenge. The company is known, however, for producing miniature electric thrusters for small satellites.

“Sustainability is at the heart of the company,” Morpheus CEO Daniel Bock told SpaceNews. “We’re also addressing the problem of space traffic control and managing all these different assets in space.”

In addition to propulsion, Morpheus is offering customers “an entire ecosystem that will enable autonomous operation of constellations,” said David Kalinske, Morpheus chief revenue officer. “We are excited about providing the capability to satellite companies and spacecraft developers.”

OneWeb’s fifth industrial Innovation Partner is Oledcomm, a French spinoff of Versailles University. Oledcomm advertises wireless communications called Light Fidelity or LiFi.

“Our mission is to connect objects and people by transforming the 14 billion light points on the planet into a powerful and secure communication network,” according to Oledcomm’s LinkedIn page.