OneWeb, a British satellite internet service company whose satellite launch plans were halted as a result of the crisis between Ukraine and Russia, has selected American space operator SpaceX to launch the balance of its satellites.
OneWeb said today that the first launch with SpaceX is “anticipated in 2022″ – without disclosing the parameters of the deal or a schedule for when the first batch of OneWeb satellites may be launched with SpaceX.
“We thank SpaceX for their support, which reflects our shared vision for the boundless potential of space. With these launch plans in place, we’re on track to finish building out our full fleet of satellites and deliver robust, fast, secure connectivity around the globe,” said Neil Masterson, chief executive of OneWeb.
OneWeb is a joint venture between the Indian telecom operator Bharti Group and the United Kingdom government. The business is constructing a constellation of 648 low-Earth orbits (LEO) satellites, 428 of which have already been put in orbit, accounting for two-thirds of the constellation. The Russian rocket Soyuz, controlled by Roscosmos — Russia’s state-owned space agency – was used for OneWeb’s regular launches.
However, regular plans came to a halt earlier this month when Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin stated that the Russian space agency would no longer launch OneWeb satellites aboard their rockets unless the UK government decides to give up their stake in the company and OneWeb signs an agreement stating that their satellites will not play any role in any geopolitical conditions. Rogozin’s remarks came as tensions between Ukraine and Russia intensified, prompting several nations, including the United Kingdom, to impose economic sanctions on Russia.
A total of 36 OneWeb satellites were intended to be launched on a forthcoming Soyuz mission before this news, however, plans were put on hold as a result of this statement. On March 9, a OneWeb spokeswoman informed Mint that the business was “looking at all available options,” including the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), to complete future satellite launches.
According to Shivaji Chatterjee, senior vice-president of Hughes Communications, a technology partner of Bharti Worldwide and OneWeb for their satellite internet plans, Roscosmos’ rejection to deploy OneWeb satellites will likely delay OneWeb’s global commercial launch of services by a couple of months.
Chatterjee further stated that the loss of the batch of 36 satellites as a result of Russia’s unwillingness to renew its contract would not have a significant impact on OneWeb. “The situation is not like how it would have been with geostationary satellites, where only one satellite is made and launched. Now, a new set of satellites will need to be added at the end of the schedule. Each one of OneWeb’s 648 satellites in the constellation can be made every day by Airbus. If 36 satellites are lost, they can be made up in the next 40 days or so,” he said.
OneWeb also announced that its services are now available above the 50th latitude, allowing early internet carriers to begin delivering their services on the ground.