OneWeb is ready to rival Starlink after weekend launches

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OneWeb successfully launched 36 new satellites over the weekend, marking a key milestone for the UK-based outfit.

The successful deployment and contact of the satellites were confirmed by NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) after a launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India.

“NSIL would like to thank OneWeb for believing in our capabilities and giving us this important opportunity to undertake the mission,” said Radhakrishnan D, Chairman-cum-Managing Director of NSIL.

“We are doubly happy, as this mission would mark the accomplishment of a full constellation and commencement of commercial broadband services globally by OneWeb.”

OneWeb’s latest deployment brings its total number of satellites to 618. While far less than the over 3,000 satellites that Starlink currently has in orbit, the design of OneWeb’s constellation requires 588 satellites to achieve global coverage.

After the successful launch, OneWeb is now in place to deliver global services, including enhanced connectivity solutions in partnership with leading providers.

“This is the most significant milestone in the history of OneWeb, as we reach the satellites needed for global coverage,” added Neil Masterson, CEO of OneWeb.

“Over several years we have remained focused on our commitment to deliver coverage solutions for the customers and communities that need it most. With today’s satellite deployment, facilitated by our expert team and our partners at ISRO and NSIL, we are realising this central ambition.”

By year-end, OneWeb will be ready to roll out global coverage. In India, the company is committed to bringing connectivity to even the most remote areas across the country. 

This latest mission marked OneWeb’s second satellite deployment from India, highlighting the strong partnership between OneWeb and NSIL/ISRO.

In March 2022, a Soyuz rocket carrying 36 of OneWeb’s satellites was due to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The launch was cancelled by the Russian space agency Roscosmos over demands that the British government withdraws its stake in OneWeb.

“We received all the money for it for the manufacture of launch vehicles, upper-stages, and for the necessary launch services,” said Dmitry Rogozin, who was head of Roscosmos at the time.

“This money, due to force majeure circumstances that have arisen as a result of the aggressive policy of the West and the sanctions that are applied against Russia, this money will remain in Russia.”

OneWeb’s board voted to suspend all launches from Baikonur and turned to other, more reliable partners for its subsequent launches.

Sunil Bharti Mittal, Executive Chairman of OneWeb, hailed the launch as a major step towards closing the digital divide, saying that OneWeb’s global constellation will play a pivotal role in realising this dream. 

“The completion of the LEO constellation is hugely significant both for OneWeb and the UK’s wider sector,” commented Michelle Donelan, UK Secretary of State for Science, Innovation, and Technology.

“We invested in OneWeb’s vision to bridge the global digital divide, and our burgeoning space sector is transforming the UK into the perfect base for like-minded companies to realise their stratospheric potential.”

(Image Credit: ISRO-NSIL)

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