Russian Soyuz rocket launches 36 OneWeb satellites after delay
(Photo by ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty Images).
A RUSSIAN Soyuz rocket carrying 36 UK telecommunication and internet satellites was launched on Friday (28) from the Vostochny cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East.
The rocket blasted off at 1738 GMT, and the process was carried out by the world’s leading satellite launch company, Arianespace.
“The launch went according to plan,” Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Roscosmos space agency, said on messaging app Telegram. It was originally scheduled for Thursday (27) but was postponed for technical reasons.
With this, OneWeb – a London-based broadband satellite communications company – has successfully launched 218 satellites.
The company had slipped into bankruptcy in March 2020 but recovered after receiving £705 million in equity investment from a consortium of the UK government and Indian conglomerate Bharti Global.
Bharti Global, led by Indian businessman Sunil Mittal, along with OneWeb, has plans to start high-speed internet services in India by mid-2022.
It got another booster in April 2021, when Eutelsat, a Paris-based company, promised to invest £400 million into OneWeb, for a 24 per cent equity stake.
OneWeb is working to complete the construction of a constellation of low earth orbit satellites that would provide enhanced broadband and other services worldwide.
With its projects, the company is competing against billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to provide fast internet using satellites for the world’s remote areas.
OneWeb is aiming its global commercial internet service to be operational by next year, supported by some 650 satellites.
“The satellites arrive pre-assembled from Florida in containers. Our team takes them over in Russia and accompanies them from their arrival at the airport until the launch,” Arianespace launch campaign manager, Jean-Claude Garreau, said.
The satellites are then launched in clusters of 36 and they separate into groups of four when in orbit, he added.
Arianespace has been contracted to make 16 Soyuz launches between December 2020 and the end of 2022.
The Vostochny launch site is one of Russia’s most important space projects, designed to reduce reliance on the Baikonur cosmodrome Moscow currently rents from Kazakhstan.