OneWeb, a satellite communications company co-owned by India’s Bharti Global, the UK government, and Japan’s SoftBank, has confirmed the successful launch of 36 satellites by Arianespace from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Russian Far East.
On Thursday morning, a Russian Soyuz rocket carried 36 communication satellites of OneWeb, aimed at boosting internet coverage globally.
The lift-off occurred at 02:47 GMT. “OneWeb’s satellites separated from the rocket and were dispensed in nine batches over a period of 3 hours 51 minutes with the signal acquisition on all 36 satellites confirmed,” the company said in a statement.
“This is the second in a five-launch program that will enable OneWeb’s connectivity solution to reach all regions north of 50 degrees latitude by the middle of 2021, with service ready to start by year’s end, giving OneWeb the ability to connect millions of consumers in the northern hemisphere,” it said.
These services will cover the United Kingdom, Alaska, Northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland, the Arctic Seas, and Canada, and will be switched on before the end of the year. OneWeb then intends to make global services available in 2022.
Thursday morning witnessed the launch of the Russian Soyuz rocket from Vostochny Cosmodrome, a spaceport in Russia’s Far-East. The European launch provider Arianespace launched the Soyuz rocket from Vostochny Cosmodrome at 10:47 p.m. EDT (0247 GMT or 11:47 a.m. local time, Thursday, March 25).
The satellites will orbit the Earth at a slightly higher altitude than the tilted equatorial orbit of the ISS (International Space Station), at 450 kilometers from sea level in a near-polar orbit.
Roscosmos, the Russian Space Agency, took to Twitter to announce the successful launch of Soyuz, with updates on the separation of the satellites.
#OneWeb: T+09:21 min → third stage cut-off and separation of the orbital block.
In the next 3.5 hours according to the flight sequence, the spacecraft will separate from the booster. Stay tuned! pic.twitter.com/MEBbaiWV3X
— РОСКОСМОС (@roscosmos) March 25, 2021
According to Spaceflight Now, a space news portal, the launch marked the fifth Soyuz flight so far this year.
The OneWeb project started off with the first launch in February 2019 aiming to put a constellation of 650 satellites into Earth’s orbit for wider and stronger internet coverage.
The company was founded by Greg Wyler in 2012 but went bankrupt in March 2020. It is now co-owned by the UK Government, India’s Bharti Global, and Japan’s SoftBank. Bharti Global was launched by Indian billionaire Sunil Bharti Mittal.
With cooperation from the Russian government, the company agreed to launch a total of 16 Soyuz rockets carrying satellites between 2020 and 2022.