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SoftBank's $1bn lights fire under satellite constellation

Son changes tack and targets startups, like OneWeb, in later stages

Earth as seen from the International Space Station: OneWeb's satellites will be orbiting three times higher.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Inside Airbus' plant in the south of France, workers dressed in cleanroom suits are piecing together satellites by hand. The installation of each part represents a small step toward a giant communications leap -- a prospect that has attracted some of the biggest stars in business, from Richard Branson to SoftBank Group Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son.

Masayoshi Son, chairman and CEO of SoftBank

OneWeb, a U.S. startup founded by big dreamer Greg Wyler, plans to test-launch 10 of the satellites from French Guiana in March. If the testing goes well, the company intends to launch more over the course of two years at a pace of 36 satellites every 21 days. This will blanket Earth with a constellation of 720 -- 900 if you count reserve units.

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