OneWeb to Launch from India, not Kazakhstan16th May 2022
UK company OneWeb will henceforth launch its small satellites from sites outside of Russia and it’s allies, the company reported. Furthermore, it will launch on Indian and American rockets instead of Russian ones. The Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) should carry out its first small satellite launch for the UK Internet provider later this year. This agreement follows up OneWeb’s contract with SpaceX to deploy more of its small satellites in low earth orbit.
Invasion Causes Launch Contract Changes
Originally, OneWeb utilized Russian Soyuz rockets for its small satellite launches. However, after Russia’s open military invasion of Ukraine and the following space sanctions from the West, OneWeb decided not to use Russian rockets and the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan. Roscosmos’ ultimatum played an equally important part in this decision. The UK government owns a stake in OneWeb, and Russia tried to demand that the UK abandon its share in the company to guarantee non-military use of small satellites.
OneWeb’s Current Launch Progress
Despite the minor setback with Roscosmos and its ultimatum, OneWeb keeps working on an upcoming small satellite launch. Some of its spacecraft for an Internet constellation will fly off on SpaceX rockets. However, neither of the companies will reveal the launch agreement details yet. The small satellites will take off from The Satish Dhawan Space Centre, operated by ISRO.
Right now, OneWeb already has 428 small satellites in orbit, which is around 66% of the total planned constellation. Besides the United Kingdom government, an Indian conglomerate Bharti Enterprises owns stakes in the UK-based company. So, the decision to contract an Indian launch site makes all the sense for OneWeb in the current geopolitical situation. According to OneWeb Executive Chairman Bharti Mittal, the decision marks a historic milestone for collaboration in space and small satellites launches for worldwide Internet connectivity.