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OneWeb contracts SpaceX to launch its Internet satellites

Updated: Mar 22, 2022

Roscosmos and its Commercial arm lose western market, amid Ukraine Conflict

Today, March 21, the UK-Indian backed company OneWeb announced that it ended the deal with the Russians and signed a contract with the American SpaceX to launch its satellite internet constellation into orbit. OneWeb (also backed by SoftBank) – a rival to the Starlink system of the same SpaceX – says launches with SpaceX will begin later this year.

Russia has long played an outsized role in the space business, launching numerous missions from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. But now, the backlash against the Russian invasion of Ukraine has put that role at risk. In February, the internet company said in a statement that its board "voted to suspend all launches of Baikonur and Vostonchy ." The company was supposed to launch 36 satellites on a Soyuz rocket until Roscosmos hit it with a last-minute ultimatum.

OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson said: “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.”

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.

OP | Why OneWeb choose SpaceX?

OneWeb decides to resume satellite launches through SpaceX, despite Other available Launch Services.

Render: Ariane 6 / OneWeb

Currently, SpaceX is one of the leading firms in Commercial Launch Service Provider for the USA and in International Market, with its Falcon 9 rocket's Launch Cadence averaging over 45 in 2020 and 2021, with half of the missions dedicated to their own Starlink Broadband Constellation.

Despite the Rival Competitor, OneWeb Choose to resume satellite launches through SpaceX, over available Launch Services like Arianespace, the Indian Space Research Organisation and Mitsubishi LS of Japan and Other LSP firms in America

The sanctions against Russia impacted the supply of RD-180 engines to ULA's Atlas 5, Capacity of Mass to Orbit is limited for Other Small LSP's (like Rocket Lab, Astra and Virgin Orbit) in America, the ISRO and MHI-LS currently doesn't meet Launch Cadence / Year for Commercial Satellite launches excluding China. The alternative European LSP Options; Arianespace's Vega and Ariane 5 (in verge of Retirement) aren't Cost Effective, thus Ariane 6 has been a future option for OneWeb. Conclusion; SpaceX has the massive Upper hand to meet all the criteria, in which the Company's Workhorse Falcon 9 Block 5 has a capability of Launching more than 60 OneWeb satellites in a dedicated mission to orbit, or fewer no's in Ride-share's on a Transporter missions.

“The first launch with SpaceX is scheduled for 2022 and will add to the total constellation in orbit, which currently stands at 428 satellites, or 66% of the predicted fleet. OneWeb's network will offer high-speed, low-latency global connectivity. Demand for broadband connectivity services continued to grow in telecom providers, aviation and maritime markets and governments around the world. OneWeb activated the service with its network at the 50th parallel and above, and the first partners are starting the service. The terms of the contract with SpaceX are confidential.”

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