Loss of Russia’s rocket launch business becomes SpaceX’s gain
OneWeb, a British satellite Internet company that canceled a rocket launch with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, is turning to SpaceX to send a broadband satellite into space.
The alliance, announced Monday by OneWeb, is unusual because SpaceX is currently OneWeb’s primary competitor in the market, which gives users from orbit high-speed internet on the ground. But a tumultuous dispute with Russia’s space agency, the company’s former launch provider, Roscosmos, prompted OneWeb to work with SpaceX. The move also underscores the growing isolation of Russia’s space industry from partners in the West following the start of Moscow’s war with its smaller neighbour.
OneWeb’s chief executive officer, Neil Masterson, said in a statement, the new agreement with SpaceX will allow OneWeb to complete construction of its cluster of 648 satellites in orbit and beam Internet under a new timeline.
“We thank SpaceX for their support, which reflects our shared vision for the limitless potential of space,” he said.
OneWeb did not say how many launches it purchased from SpaceX, which rockets the company would use or when it now plans to complete its satellite group. SpaceX’s Falcon 9, which costs about $62 million per launch, is its most active launch vehicle. In addition to its agreement with SpaceX, OneWeb is talking with other launch providers, Ruth Pritchard-Kelly, a senior advisor on regulatory affairs for OneWeb, said in an interview.
The very first SpaceX launch carrying OneWeb satellites “will happen this summer, but we don’t have a date,” Pritchard-Kelly said.
OneWeb’s Internet business is active in parts of the Northern Hemisphere, but the company will no longer be able to meet its goal of providing full global service in August 2022. Starlink, SpaceX’s competing internet conglomerate that relies on at least thousands of satellites. Altitude, is already available on a pilot basis to some consumers, and has been shipped to Ukraine in recent weeks.
OneWeb has sent 428 satellites – 66 percent of its Constellation design – into orbit since 2019, each time using Russia’s workhorse rocket Soyuz, which has been active since the days of the Cold War space race.
In February, three days before OneWeb’s planned satellite launch aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket from a Russian spaceport in Kazakhstan, Roscosmos director general Dmitry Rogozin demanded that OneWeb cut ties with the British government, which had invested $500 million in the company in 2020. had invested. To help get out of bankruptcy. Mr Rogozin’s ultimatum came after a barrage of Western sanctions imposed on Russia over the invasion.
Instead OneWeb canceled all six of its planned Soyuz launches, abandoning its goal of completing its satellite group by August. Neither Britain nor any country in the European Union has a rocket capable of carrying satellites into orbit. A OneWeb executive at the time said that the company was considering rockets for its launch in the United States, India and Japan.
Russo-Ukraine War: Major Events
Signs of a deadlock between stalled conversations. After nearly a month of fighting, the war appears to have reached a stalemate. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for renewed peace talks with Russia last week, despite some signs of progress after four days of talks.
OneWeb officials said they did not know the future of the 36 satellites that were aboard a Soyuz rocket whose mission was canceled last month. Referring to the shell protecting the rocket’s payload, Ms. Pritchard-Kelly said of the satellites, “they were removed from flight,” and I personally don’t know whether they are still in Kazakhstan. .
Ms Pritchard-Kelly said OneWeb is in talks with French rocket company Arianespace, which brokered OneWeb’s Soyuz launch, about retrieving satellites and securing possible refunds for axed Soyuz missions.
“Nothing is lost; all we have done is lost time,” she said.
Mr. Rogozin, head of Russia’s space agency, said on Twitter on Monday That OneWeb was “doomed”, reiterating previous claims that not launching on Soyuz would send the company back into bankruptcy. He suggested that SpaceX could not successfully deploy OneWeb’s satellites, but offered no explanation as to why it lacked capability.
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