OneWeb has run out of Soyuz to launch its satellites. So he has had to turn to his competition: SpaceX

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OneWeb, the alternative to Starlink, almost disappeared after going bankrupt, was resurrected thanks to the help of the United Kingdom, and put satellites back into orbit. However, with the war in Ukraine, his plans were again altered by having to give up using Russian Soyuz rockets. Now the company reaches an agreement with its main competitor, SpaceX, to complete its constellation of satellites.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine occurred just days before a scheduled launch of 34 OneWeb satellites. A Soyuz rocket was supposed to take off last Friday, March 4 with the company’s cargo from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan’s launch pad, which is jointly managed by the Russian Aerospace Forces and Roscosmos, the country’s space agency. But there was a change of plans.

Russia refused to launch the satellites

On Wednesday, March 2, two days before launch, Roscosmos made two surprise pre-liftoff demands: that OneWeb guarantee that the satellites were not going to be used for military purposes and that the UK, which helped the company out of bankruptcy, withdraw its investment. And, as if that were not enough, they put a time limit: before 9:20 p.m. Moscow time. The demands were not met and the launch was suspendedmarking a new chapter in the strain in relations between the West and Russia.

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After the demands of Roscomos came the new position of Arianespace, the French company in charge of operating the Russian-made rockets for OneWeb both at the Baikonur cosmodrome, in Kazakhstan, and at Kourou, in French Guiana. the signature said that it would suspend all Soyuz launches, at the request of the sanctions decided by the European Union, the United States and the United Kingdom.

With this scenario, OneWeb was left with fewer and fewer options on the table. Ariane 5 rockets, used to launch satellites and known for carrying the James Webb Space Telescope into space, had all their short-term launches booked. The name SpaceX appeared on the horizon as the only Western company with the ability to meet OneWeb’s technical and operational requirements in the short term.

OneWeb’s decision to turn to SpaceX is somewhat surprising, as it is its main competitor in the growing satellite internet business with the increasingly thriving Starlink constellation. However, OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson said in a press release this week that had reached an agreement to carry out the first satellite launch in a Falcon 9 later this year.

In whose hands are the world's communications satellites

“We thank SpaceX for their support, which reflects our shared vision of the limitless potential of space,” he continued. “With these launch plans underway, we are on track to finish building our full fleet of satellites and deliver robust, fast and secure connectivity around the world,” added the executive, who did not provide details on the terms of the agreement. even though launching a Falcon 9 costs around 62 million dollars.

It is also not known how many OneWeb satellites SpaceX will be able to orbit by the end of the year and if there will be other launches with Elon Musk’s company. For now, the company led by Neil Masterson is already working to guarantee its long-term launches and considers agreements with the Indian Space Program (ISRO) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

OneWeb has launched 428 satellites to date, all using Russian-made Soyuz rockets. The company had the ambitious goal of providing global coverage in August of this year, but with the recent changes in plans, this will not be possible and the service will continue to be active as before, in some countries of the northern hemisphere. Starlink, meanwhile, has launched more than 2,000 satellites.

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OneWeb, the alternative to Starlink, almost disappeared after going bankrupt, was resurrected thanks to the help of the United Kingdom,…

OneWeb, the alternative to Starlink, almost disappeared after going bankrupt, was resurrected thanks to the help of the United Kingdom,…

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