London-based satellite operator OneWeb has launched 43 satellites in its first major roll out. A test in 2019 saw the first six of the constellation of 648 satellites in orbit.
The launch on a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan saw the satellites released from the dispenser (above) in nine batches over a period of several hours. The 150kg satellites will provide high-speed, low-latency connectivity in 2021, although the first commercial operation will start in the Arctic this year.
“The successful manufacture, delivery and launch of this batch of 34 satellites is the latest proof point of the OneWeb plan. Importantly, today’s mission also brings us closer to our next step, realizing our ultimate vision of providing access to high speed, reliable internet to everyone, everywhere," said Adrian Steckel, CEO of OneWeb.
“We are seeing considerable interest from prospective customers and partners. Later this year, we will provide service in the arctic region and 2021 will see OneWeb achieve global coverage, making the digital divide a thing of the past. I’m very proud of our team and partners who continue to collaborate to make our ambitious scale a reality, and also those in Kazakhstan for supporting our vision.”
The OneWeb launch follows a similar launch of the StarLink satellites by US competitor SpaceX earlier this week. StarLink has now launched 182 satellites, each weighing 260kg with four phased array communications antennas. SpaceX also says it will start commercial operation later this year.
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