Bye, bye, Russia. After the UK’s OneWeb signed a deal with US rival SpaceX to restart satellite launches, there is now a second satellite launch option. After experiencing difficulties as a result of Russia’s aggressive invasion of Ukraine, the British satellite internet company OneWeb has successfully developed alternate launch plans.
OneWeb said that it and Elon Musk’s Space X had “…agreed to terms that will allow OneWeb to begin satellite launches in the near future.” Despite the fact that the terms of the agreement with SpaceX are being kept under wraps, the decision has startled some observers, given that SpaceX is currently building a competing satellite network known as Starlink.
When the OneWeb company announced in December that it had launched 394 satellites into orbit, it meant that it had completed more than 60 percent of the LEO (low Earth orbit) satellite fleet required to provide high-speed, low-latency global connectivity to primarily the northern hemisphere. OneWeb was founded in London in 2003.
However, it has already been included in this total. OneWeb had planned to launch another 36 satellites from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur cosmodrome on Friday, March 4, atop a Soyuz-2.1brocket, as part of its ongoing expansion. Although OneWeb was not directly affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the massive wave of international criticism and sanctions that followed it did have an influence on it.
In order to launch its satellites, OneWeb had been working with the French space agency Arianespace, which in turn had been working with Russia’s space agency Roscosmos to send the satellites to low earth orbit for years.
In the wake of international sanctions and Russia’s collapsing economy, Roscosmos refused to allow the launch of 36 OneWeb satellites. The Russian space agency then publicly demanded a number of concessions from the British government before it would proceed with the contracted launch, which had already been purchased and paid for.
Roscosmos Director-General Dmitry Rogozin said on Twitter that the agency would not proceed with the scheduled launch of the satellites unless the corporation guarantees that the satellites will not be utilized for military purposes in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, Roscosmos required that the United Kingdom government withdraw its investment in the corporation as a condition for the company’s debut, which was granted.
According to Roscosmos, if these requirements are not satisfied, the launch will not take place. It should be emphasized that Roscosmos has also severed connections with other long-standing partners, claiming penalties as the reason for doing so. According to a statement released on February 26, the Russian space agency said that it will no longer engage with the European Space Agency at the European spaceport in French Guiana, which is located on the north coast of South America.
Without a doubt, the British government was adamant in its refusal to accommodate the Russian space agency’s requests. OneWeb was left without a method to launch its satellites when Russia was ruled out of running. That is, until Monday when OneWeb and SpaceX came to an agreement that would allow OneWeb to begin its satellite launch operations again.
OneWeb said the first launch with SpaceX is expected to take place in 2022 and would add to the company’s complete in-orbit constellation, which presently consists of 428 satellites, or 66 percent of the overall fleet, at the time of the launch. Founder and CEO Neil Masterson expressed gratitude to SpaceX for their support, which he described as “a reflection of our shared vision for the unbounded promise of space.”
In the meanwhile, we’ll be able to complete the deployment of our whole fleet of satellites and provide reliable, fast, and secure access to users all around the world.” It is claimed by the company that demand for OneWeb’s broadband connection services has continued to rise among telecommunications providers, the aviation and marine industries, and governments throughout the globe.
OneWeb has enabled service with its network in latitudes above the 50th parallel, and early partners are putting in place the necessary infrastructure. At the time of writing, it was unclear if OneWeb had been successful in recovering their delayed 36 satellites from Russia’s Roscosmos space agency.