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OneWeb keeping fingers crossed for tonight’s ninth launch

OneWeb at Baikonur Aug 2021.jpg

OneWeb’s ninth launch, due to take place later today, will mean it has 288 satellites in orbit.

The launch is scheduled for 22:23 UTC (18:23 EDT) from Baikonur in Kazakhstan, the former Soviet Union’s main site, from which Yuri Gagarin took off 60 years ago.

If successful, this will be the company’s ninth launch in a row. All the previous eight performed perfectly. Once the whole programme is complete OneWeb will have 648 satellites in orbit, including 50 in-orbit spares. 

The 34 satellites on board tonight will be flown into operational orbit to deliver enterprise-grade internet to locations north of 50° north – including the US state of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Finland and other parts of northern Europe, the UK, Iceland and the Arctic seas.

Tonight’s launch (pictured) is OneWeb’s third lift-off from Baikonur. It will be shown live on OneWeb’s YouTube channel. The launch will be carried out by French company Arianespace and its French-Russian affiliate Starsem.

Sunil Bharti Mittal, the executive chairman of OneWeb, will be delivering the keynote speech at Capacity’s International Telecoms Week at the end of the month, giving details of the company’s plans to go to market in that north of 50° north region at the end of 2021 and then across the world from May-June 2022.

Mittal will be speaking at 09:10 EDT on Monday 30 August. The event takes place near Washington DC at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland. Full registration details are here.

Mittal is also expected to talk about “gen two”, the second generation of satellites that the company is already developing. The company will be holding an industry day about gen two, in association with the European Space Agency, at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus near Didcot, UK, in September.

Update: the launch was aborted at the last minute due to a "non-nominal incident during the last automated sequence”, rocket industry jargon for something going wrong. Arianespace said: “The Soyuz launch vehicle and the 34 spacecraft … are in stable and safe conditions.” The company has rescheduled the launch for 22:18 UTC on Saturday 21 August, depending on “ongoing investigations”.

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