War means OneWeb waits to hear whether launch 14 goes ahead

War means OneWeb waits to hear whether launch 14 goes ahead

OneWeb 13 launch b.jpg

OneWeb is concerned about the company’s ability to carry out next Wednesday’s satellite launch, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The launch – OneWeb’s fourteenth, due to add 36 new satellites to the company’s fleet – is due to take place from Baikonur, a Russian-controlled enclave in Kazakhstan.

“Who knows?” Capacity was asked by someone close to the business.

The Soyuz rocket is already in place and the satellites have been shipped out to Baikonur from Florida, where they were made by a joint venture of OneWeb and Airbus.

Arianespace, a French company, has the contract to launch all 648 satellites in OneWeb’s first generation. Five of these launches have been from Baikonur and another six have been from Vostochny, in eastern Russia, close to the Chinese border.

The other two so far, the first back in 2019 and the latest (pictured), on 10 February, were from Kourou, in French Guiana.

All – from any of the launch sites – have used Soyuz rockets, originally developed by the USSR in 1966 to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles, though much advanced since then. All are made in Russia.

It has been a good formula: all of OneWeb’s 13 launches so far, putting aloft a total of 428 satellites, have been 100% successful.

Satellite launches, including supply rockets to the International Space Station (ISS), have been a globally collaborative business for many years, with a mixture of involvement from European, Russian and US companies. The ISS itself is a cooperative venture of Canada, Europe, Japan, Russia and the US.

“The following OneWeb launches could be from Kourou,” Capacity was told by a well-informed source. Arianespace has a stock of Soyuz rockets on site “and the satellites have not left Florida yet”.

OneWeb is already providing services in association with a number of wholesale partners.

Yesterday it announced a partner agreement with Eclipse Global Connectivity, a French company that specialises in linking aircraft in flight. The day before OneWeb announced a distribution partnership agreement with Telespazio, a joint venture between Italian company Leonardo with 67% and Thales of France with 33%, to deliver services to commercial and government customers in Europe.

Earlier in February OneWeb announced a deal with a Norwegian company, Marlink, to provide services to the energy sector – initially between the 50° north parallel and the North Pole, “expanding to the maritime, energy, enterprise and humanitarian sectors on a global scale from January 2023”.

But for that expansion, OneWeb needs to get its next six rockets with 220 satellites off the launchpads, whether in Baikonur, Kourou or Vostochny.


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