UPDATE 2-OneWeb sets record launch plan after $500 mln funding
* Group of eight investors include Virgin, Airbus, Bharti
* Funds to develop key technologies, start services by 2019
* OneWeb announces historic rocket launch deal (Adds Virgin Galactic comments, details)
By Aman Shah and Irene Klotz
MUMBAI/CAPE CANAVERAL, June 25 (Reuters) - Privately owned OneWeb announced what it called the world's largest commercial rocket deal on Thursday after raising $500 million from a group of global investors to support its plans to bring broadband to billions of people via satellite.
The fund-raising attracted backing from Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Europe's Airbus Group, which will also build 900 "micro-satellites" designed to extend the reach of the Internet to remote corners of the world.
OneWeb plans to put a network of 648 small satellites into orbit to provide global broadband and mobile telephone services. The rest of the satellites will be kept on the ground as spares.
The company, based in Britain's Channel Islands, plans over 65 launches including 39 from Virgin's spaceflight company, Virgin Galactic, and 21 from Europe's Arianespace using Russian-made Soyuz rockets.
It has estimated the cost of the project at between $1.5 billion and $2 billion. Continuación...