OneWeb Satellites Set For Launch by SpaceX Soon

British satellite internet service provider, OneWeb, whose satellite launch plans were suspended as a
collateral impact of the Ukraine-Russia conflict, has chosen American space operator SpaceX to launch
the remainder of its satellites. Announced earlier today, OneWeb stated that the first launch with
SpaceX is “anticipated in 2022″– without disclosing either the terms of the agreement, or a timeline for when the first batch of OneWeb satellites could be launched with SpaceX.

“We thank SpaceX for their support, which reflects our shared vision for the boundless potential of
space. With these launch plans in place, we’re on track to finish building out our full fleet of satellites
and deliver robust, fast, secure connectivity around the globe,” said Neil Masterson, Chief Executive Officer, OneWeb.

OneWeb is part-owned by Indian telecom operator, Bharti Group, along with the Government of the
United Kingdom. The company is building a constellation of 648 low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, of which 428 satellites, or two-thirds of the constellation, have already been deployed in orbit. OneWeb’s regular launches were being conducted with Russian rocket Soyuz, which is operated by Roscosmos – the Russian state-owned space agency.

However, regular plans came to a halt after Roscosmos Chief, Dmitry Rogozin, stated earlier this month
that the Russian space agency would no longer launch OneWeb satellites aboard their rockets – unless
the UK government decides to give up their stake in the company, and OneWeb sign an agreement
stating that their satellites will play no part in any geopolitical conditions. Rogozin’s words resulted in
conflicts escalating between Ukraine and Russia, which prompted numerous countries, including the UK, to impose economic sanctions against Russia.

A total of 36 OneWeb satellites were scheduled to be launched aboard an upcoming Soyuz mission, but
plans were put on hold in the aftermath of this announcement. On 9 March, a OneWeb spokesperson
had told Mint that the company was “looking at all available options,” which also included the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), to complete launches of their future satellites.

Shivaji Chatterjee, Senior Vice-President of Hughes Communications, a technology partner of Bharti
Global and OneWeb for their satellite internet plans, told Mint that Roscosmos’ refusal to launch
OneWeb satellites will likely push back plans for OneWeb’s global commercial launch of services by a
couple of months.

Chatterjee had also affirmed that losing the batch of 36 satellites due to Russia’s refusal to continue its
contract would likely not affect OneWeb too heavily. “The situation is not like how it would have been
with geostationary satellites, where only one satellite is made and launched. Now, a new set of satellites
will need to be added at the end of the schedule. Each one of OneWeb’s 648 satellites in the
constellation can be made every day by Airbus. If 36 satellites are lost, they can be made up in the next
40 days or so," he said.