The Soyuz rocket successfully launched 36 OneWeb satellites into orbit on Wednesday (24 March) as the London-based company continues to recover from a difficult 2020.
European launch provider Arianespace launched a Soyuz rocket from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East at 10:47 pm ET (0247 GMT or 11:47 am local time on Thursday, March 25).
The OneWeb satellites were to begin deploying in groups of four starting at 12:05 pm ET (0405 GMT on Thursday, March 25), while the ninth and final group was to deploy at 2:38 AM ET (0638 GMT ) if everything goes according to plan. The satellites will orbit the Earth in a near-polar orbit at an altitude of approximately 280 miles (450 kilometers), slightly higher than the inclined equatorial orbit of the International Space Station.
This was the fifth overall launch of OneWeb. The satellite constellation, still under construction, aims to provide Internet access to remote areas using multiple Internet protocols, including 3G, LTE, next-generation 5G (which powers the Internet of Things) and Wi-Fi, according to the launch provider Arianespace. …
On photos: OneWeb Launches Global Satellite Internet Constellation
OneWeb “is focused on scaling the satellite constellation to launch commercial services from late 2021 in the UK, Alaska, Canada, northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland and the Arctic seas,” Arianespace wrote in the mission description.
OneWeb originally planned to put 48,000 satellites into orbit, but after a tough 2020, it filed a request with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in January, proposing 6,372 satellites.
The company, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy a year ago shortly after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, told the FCC that the revision “demonstrates the commitment and vision” of its new owners, which are the UK government and Indian telecommunications company Bharti Global. The goal is to deploy “a cost-effective, responsible and innovative satellite network to deliver global broadband,” according to a filing quoted by Space News in January.
OneWeb, announcing the new launch, said the company is now “recruiting at a fast pace” – 200 new employees have been hiring since last fall – as the company builds a global network of ground stations. It pointed to a $ 73 million contract with Intellian for user terminals and another (undisclosed amount) contract with Satixfy for Wi-Fi terminals on airplanes.
“OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture with Airbus, is making satellites and is back to full production,” OneWeb added, saying it has secured global priority spectrum rights with the International Telecommunication Union to support the growing constellation.
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