OneWeb said March 21 that it reached a deal with SpaceX that will allow OneWeb to resume launching its LEO broadband constellation this year after withdrawing from launching on Russian Soyuz
“The first launch with SpaceX is anticipated in 2022 and will add to OneWeb’s total in-orbit constellation that currently stands at 428 satellites, or 66 percent of the fleet,” OneWeb said in a news release.
OneWeb aimed to launch 36 more satellites March 4 on a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, but Russia’s space agency, led by Dmitry Rogozin, set conditions on the mission after rolling the rocket to its launch pad March 2.
“We thank SpaceX for their support, which reflects our shared vision for the boundless potential of space,” OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson said in a statement. “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.”
OneWeb’s 330-pound, mini-fridge-sized internet satellites are built in a factory near Kennedy Space Center, then shipped to one of two sites – French Guiana in South America or Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan – for liftoff. The local operation is operated with input from European aviation and aerospace giant Airbus.
OneWeb entered 2022 expecting to reach global coverage by August. However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine put the kibosh on the six Soyuz launches the London-based LEO broadband constellation operator was counting on to complete its 648-satellite constellation this year.
“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,” OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson said in a written statement.
OneWeb did not disclose how soon its SpaceX launch would happen, how many satellites it would deploy, which SpaceX launch vehicle would be used, or whether the deal includes more than one launch.
“We cannot comment on details of the agreement at this time,” OneWeb spokeswoman Katie Dowd said