The communications provider OneWeb suddenly found itself without a launching provider due to the conflict in Ukraine, as Roskosmos had terminated its cooperation with Arianespace on Soyuz launches. Shortly before the planned launch of March 5, 2022, Roskosmos surprisingly imposes conditions that the technology of the satellites should not be used for military purposes. OneWeb announced two days before the launch that it would not agree to the conditions and that all further launches from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan would be suspended. The British government, which owns a stake in OneWeb, said it supported the decision.
The Soyuz rocket with 36 OneWeb satellites remained on the ground. As a result, OneWeb began to withdraw its own personnel from Baikonur. The dependence on Roskosmos started to backlash on “Oneweb” against the background of the sanctions against Russia because of its invasion of Ukraine. Continuing to launch satellites until they were fully operational seemed uncertain.
SpaceX partner for more launches
Now the British satellite company could close a deal with SpaceX. The first launch is scheduled for later this year on a Falcon 9 rocket. An exact date has not yet been given, nor has the exact number of launches booked. So far, OneWeb has launched its satellites on Russian Soyuz rockets marketed by Ariane-Space from Kourou (French Guiana), from Baikonur (Kazakhstan) or Vostochny (Russia). To date, 428 satellites, or 66% of the total planned fleet, have been launched into orbit during the launches.
New Space India is also ready to step in
The contract for OneWeb satellite launches with New Space India follows a separate agreement between OneWeb and SpaceX to allow the company to resume satellite launches. The first launch with New Space India is expected as early as 2022 from the Satish Dhawan Space Center (SDSC) SHAR in Sriharikota.
“This latest launch plan agreement adds significant momentum to the development of the OneWeb network as we work across the space toward our common goal of connecting communities worldwide,” said Sunil Bharti Mittal, chief executive officer of OneWeb.
Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal
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