Science

Watch a Soyuz rocket launch dozens of OneWeb Internet satellites early Thursday

Internet satellite provider OneWeb is set to launch a new fleet to join its growing mega-constellation in orbit early Thursday (October 14) and you can watch liftoff live.

The OneWeb satellites will travel into space atop a Russian-made Soyuz rocket operated by the French company Arianespace, which is scheduled to take off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Thursday at 5:40 am EDT (0940 GMT). You can watch the action live on this page, courtesy of Arianespace, or directly through the company.

The spacecraft will be deployed from Soyuz to a near-polar orbit with an altitude of 280 miles (450 kilometers), Arianespace representatives wrote in a mission description. These deployments will occur in batches of four satellites, the last of which will take place approximately 3 hours and 51 minutes after lift-off.

In Photos: OneWeb Launches New Global Satellite Internet Constellation

The solar-powered satellites will then steer themselves into their operational orbit, which is 1,200 kilometers (746 miles) above Earth. They will have a lot of company up there; the constellation already consists of 322 spacecraft, all of which were launched by Arianespace.

And many more will join this group in the weeks and months to come. London-based OneWeb is building a constellation of 648 satellites, which will transmit broadband Internet services to people around the world.

“Once deployed, the OneWeb constellation will enable user terminals capable of offering 3G, LTE, 5G and Wi-Fi coverage, providing high-speed access globally, by air, sea and land,” Arianespace representatives wrote in the mission description.

OneWeb plans to begin providing such service to the northern regions of the planet by the end of this year, with global coverage expected to continue in 2022.

The company will have some competition for this product. For example, SpaceX has already launched more than 1,700 of its Starlink broadband satellites (with many more to come) and is currently beta testing the network service. And Amazon plans to launch its own constellation of Internet satellites, although none of these spacecraft have left the ground to date.

Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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