Indian rocket launches UK's OneWeb satellites into space

Internet satellites were initially meant to be launched on a Russian Soyuz rocket

India’s LVM3 rocket successfully launched 36 of the satellites from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre. Photo: OneWeb Twitter
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An Indian rocket launched the UK-owned OneWeb internet satellites into orbit on Saturday.

The satellites were initially meant to be launched on a Russian Soyuz rocket earlier this year, but OneWeb terminated the contract.

Russia’s space agency Roscosmos had demanded that OneWeb sever links to the UK government, due to sanctions placed on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.

India’s LVM3 rocket successfully launched 36 of the satellites from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.

This brings OneWeb’s constellation to 462 internet satellites. The company has plans for a fleet of 648 low-Earth orbit satellites that will deliver high-speed internet across the world.

“Today’s launch is a significant milestone for OneWeb,” said Sunil Bharti Mittal, executive chairman of OneWeb.

“This new phase of our launch programme from India brings us a step closer to not only enhancing our global coverage but also delivering connectivity in India and South Asia, particularly to the communities who need it most."

The company said it is on track to activate global coverage in 2023.

It also signed a contract with SpaceX earlier this year for the launch of its satellites. This is despite the two being competitors because of SpaceX's Starlink satellite constellation, which also provides high-speed internet.

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

“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.”

Internet satellites have been helping underserved locations around the world get online.

Remote areas that lack the proper infrastructure are expected to benefit the most from satellite internet, especially schools and hopsitals.

SpaceX has also been funding Starlink services in Ukraine since it was invaded by Russia. It is helping to provide communication used by Ukraine’s military forces in areas that don’t otherwise have cellular service.

More than 2,300 Starlink satellites are currently in orbit and serving more than 50,000 users all over the world.

Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, hopes to have about 42,000 of these satellites to provide global connectivity.

What is Starlink and could it be used to secure internet freedom?

Updated: October 24, 2022, 12:45 PM
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