OneWeb two-thirds there after successful launch number 13

OneWeb two-thirds there after successful launch number 13

OneWeb 13 launch b.jpg

Arianespace has successfully launched 34 more satellites for OneWeb, taking the company’s total in orbit to 428.

A Soyuz rocket launched the satellites from Kourou in French Guiana in South America yesterday afternoon local time, and all were deployed successfully in what was the company’s first launch of 2022 and the 13th since it started.

“All sats acquired. Success,” Chris McLoughlin, OneWeb’s head of government relations, told Capacity by WhatsApp at 02:27 GMT this morning.

The success means the company has 66% of its low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites in operation, with a schedule for six more launches over the rest of the year. The next is due on 5 March, from the Baikonur cosmodrome in the Russian enclave in Kazakhstan.

Neil Masterson, OneWeb CEO, commented: “Our first launch of the year marks our significant progress in completing a truly global LEO network later in 2022. We continue to see growing demand for OneWeb’s industry-leading services as we look forward to delivering on our ambition to build robust, secure, and global access to broadband services.”

OneWeb’s satellites separated last night from the rocket and were dispensed in nine batches over a period of 3 hours 33 minutes, with signal acquisition on all 34 satellites confirmed.

OneWeb dedicated this latest launch to the company’s commitment to what it calls “responsible space” – its belief that space is a shared natural resource and it is up to all of us to help safeguard it for use today and by future generations.

The company said its initiative comprises three core elements: committing to responsible design and operations, sustaining the space ecosystem to support new technologies to advance in this area and, lastly, engaging in advancing policy outcomes to balance growing the space economy while ensuring its protection.

Yesterday’s launch marked OneWeb’s first return to the Kourou site since February 2019, its first ever launch, before the company went into chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Launches restarted in February 2020 after the UK government and the Bharti group of India rescued the company. Bharti, run by OneWeb executive chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal, is now the biggest shareholder, with a US$1 billion stake. 

One of the shareholders, Hughes Network Systems said last month that it had formed a strategic six-year distribution partner agreement with OneWeb to provide connectivity services across India.

All the satellite construction and launch costs were paid in advance by the earlier company. Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace, said: “More OneWeb missions are coming soon this year and will enable the start of the constellation’s global services. We are proud to contribute to the OneWeb project, which will increase connectivity on earth while treating space as a natural resource and being committed to protecting it.”

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