OneWeb, the satellite operator, which was rescued from bankruptcy by the UK Government, who remain a part-owner has successfully launched satellites via new partner SpaceX.
Previously OneWeb used Russia’s Soyuz rockets for launches, but their programme was thrown into jeopardy by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, forcing them to seek new partners.
On Thursday, at 5:27 p.m. ET, SpaceX launched the OneWeb 1 mission with a Falcon9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida (USA) with 40 of OneWeb’s compact Low Earth Orbit (LEO) based ultrafast broadband satellites aboard
The mission represents the next step in OneWeb’s plan to provide global broadband coverage via a constellation of 648 small LEO satellites. Prior to the launch 462 of the 150kg satellites had been launched, each orbiting at an altitude of 1,200km above the Earth. The aim is to complete the constellation by late 2023.
OneWeb CEO, Neil Masterson said “We are thankful for the support of other leaders in the space industry allowing us to quickly restart our launch campaign and we are delighted to work with SpaceX today for our first-ever launch from Florida, the home where our satellites are manufactured.
As we look to our final ‘Three to Global Reality’ launches in the first half of 2023, we are thrilled to see our connectivity footprint dramatically expand from today, and to soon activate our network globally to reach remote and under-served areas of the world.”
OneWeb chief commercial officer Stephen Beynon explained that it will take about 100 days for the satellites to reach their intended destinations and begin services, expanding the operator’s constellation into the southern hemisphere while improving the density of coverage to the north. This will enable coverage across “a substantial part” of North America, according to Beynon, where OneWeb has a distribution agreement with AT&T.
As well as SpaceX who also operates rival LEO network, Starlink, OneWeb also agreed a launch partnership with NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) – the commercial arm of India’s space agency – who may be utilised for 2023 launches.