SpaceX will launch OneWeb’s internet satellites, replacing Russian Soyuz rockets

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OneWeb has found a new trick for its Internet satellites.

OneWeb has launched 428 broadband spacecraft to date, all using Russian-made Soyuz rockets operated by French company Arianespace. Corn Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine made this situation untenable.

Before authorizing the launch of a Soyuz topped with 36 OneWeb satellites from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan earlier this month, for example, the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos demanded that OneWeb guarantees that the spacecraft will not be used for military purposes and that the United Kingdom will divest itself of the London-based company. (The UK government helped bring OneWeb out of bankruptcy at the end of 2020.) These demands were not met and the satellite loaded Soyuz rolled off the launch pad in Baikonur shortly before its scheduled takeoff.

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But OneWeb didn’t stay in rocket limbo long: the company announced today (March 21) that it had signed a deal with SpaceX – a satellite internet competitor – to bring its spacecraft into low Earth orbit (LEO).

“We thank SpaceX for their support, which reflects our shared vision of the unlimited potential of space,” said Neil Masterson, CEO of OneWeb. said in a statement today. “With these launch plans in place, we are on track to complete the construction of our full fleet of satellites and deliver robust, fast and secure connectivity around the world.”

OneWeb assembles a constellation of 648 broadband satellites. The company hasn’t announced the terms of the SpaceX contract, but Masterson’s statement suggests SpaceX could deliver the remaining 220 satellites to LEO, likely using its workhorse. Falcon 9 rocket. In today’s statement, OneWeb representatives said the first launch with SpaceX is expected later this year.

SpaceX is building its own broadband constellation in LEO, a giant network called Stellar Link which already includes more than 2,000 satellites. And Starlink will get even bigger, if all goes as planned; SpaceX has permission to launch 12,000 Starlink satellites and has sought approval for up to 30,000 more.

Mike Wall is the author of “The low(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom Or on Facebook.

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