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OneWeb signs deal with SpaceX to resume satellite launches

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UK Low Earth Orbit satellite firm OneWeb has signed a deal which will allow it to send up satellites into space again by using SpaceX rockets.

In early March, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, the board of OneWeb voted to suspend all its upcoming satellite launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, a spaceport located in Khazakstan and leased to Russia.

The first launch with SpaceX, which is based in the US and will replace Baikonur, is expected this year. while this is presumably a commercial arrangement it still reflects well onb SpaceX, which is also a direct competior of OneWeb in the LEO space. OneWeb currently has 428 satellites in orbit which apparently represents 66% of the fleet it’s trying to establish.

“We thank SpaceX for their support, which reflects our shared vision for the boundless potential of space,” said OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson. “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.”

The press release goes on to say: “Demand for OneWeb’s broadband connectivity services has continued to grow across telecommunications providers, aviation and maritime markets, and governments worldwide. OneWeb has activated service with its network at the 50th parallel and above, and early partners are initiating service.”

The Baikonur Cosmodrome seems to have been a hub of satellite launching capability before the current conflict in Ukraine and subsequent international sanctions against Russia. Whether LEO firms like OneWeb look permanently elsewhere for ways of getting their units in to space will most likely be entirely dictated by the politics of what comes next in the region, the details of which are impossible to predict.

 

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