Arianespace deploys more OneWeb satellites

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

Arianespace has resumed the deployment of OneWeb’s satellite network following its rescue from bankruptcy.

Flight ST30, the 55th Soyuz mission carried out by Arianespace and its Starsem affiliate, carried 36 satellites into orbit from Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome.

“Congratulations to all the teams who made this latest mission from the Vostochny Cosmodrome a success. This launch confirms Arianespace’s ability to deploy the OneWeb constellation through the use of three different Soyuz launch sites – in French Guiana, Kazakhstan and Russia,” said Stéphane Israël, Chief Executive Officer of Arianespace. “I want to sincerely thank OneWeb for its trust. I am delighted that our company has contributed – for the fifth time – to this client’s ultimate ambition of providing Internet access to everyone, anywhere, at any time.”

Ariane is currently under pressure from the EU’s new space strategy to compete with SpaceX in the US.

Soyuz successfully orbited the initial six from French Guiana during February 2019. In February and March 2020, Arianespace and its Starsem affiliate successfully launched 68 OneWeb satellites from Baikonur Cosmodrome, as well as an additional batch of 36 satellites from the Vostochny Cosmodrome during December 2020.

An amended launch contract with OneWeb will see Arianespace perform 14 more Soyuz launches through 2021 and 2022. These launches will enable the company to complete the deployment of its full global constellation of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites by the end of 2022 to create a global broadband network, although the company aims to provide a service before then.

OneWeb was rescued from bankruptcy last year by a consortium led by the UK government and Bharti Telecom. The consortium has been expanded to include Hughes. The satellite prime contractor is OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture with Airbus Defence and Space. The satellites are currently produced in Florida on a manufacturing line that can build up to two satellites per day on a series production line dedicated to spacecraft assembly, integration, and testing.

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