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36 further OneWeb satellites are launched by Arianespace

On March 25, Arianespace effectively deployed another batch of 36 satellites for the low-earth-orbit broadband provider OneWeb, taking the cumulative number of satellites in orbit to about 146. OneWeb has established communication with every satellite after it detached from the Soyuz-2.1b rocket, which launched at 10:47 p.m. Eastern from Russia’s newest launch site, Vostochny Cosmodrome. The satellites were launched in nine batches over almost four hours from the rocket’s Fregat upper stage. The mission is OneWeb’s second under its current shareholders, the British government, as well as Indian telecom firm Bharti Global, who purchased the firm out of bankruptcy on November 20.

It is the second of 5 deployments OneWeb aims to complete by June to reach all of the latitudes north of 50 degrees. Northern Europe, Greenland, Alaska, Iceland, the Arctic Seas, and Canada will also be included in the coverage region. OneWeb’s head of government, policy, and interaction, Chris McLaughlin, stated the target is the company’s first benchmark for its new shareholders. In a conversation with SpaceNews, McLaughlin said, “With the main shareholder in [the British government], this trajectory through to roughly June is of special emotive significance.”

Commercial operation will not begin until late 2021; he claims that achieving the June launch date is crucial in stressing the acquisition’s logic and importance to the British public. Following Brexit, the United Kingdom has defined room as one of the sectors in which it needs to extend its domestic manufacturing capability. OneWeb, according to McLaughlin, would also boost the country’s status within the Five Eyes countries, which comprise Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, as well as New Zealand.

U.K. Company Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng stated in a statement released after OneWeb’s March 25 deployment, “This latest deployment is just another boost for OneWeb as well as their ambitious efforts to link citizens and companies across the world to quick and secure broadband.” Our funding for OneWeb places the U.K. at the cutting edge in space technologies and shows our contribution to increasing the country’s strategic advantage in this field.”

In 2022, OneWeb aims to deploy a 648-strong constellation to offer national high-speed, low-latency networking services. The COVID-19 pandemic, which McLaughlin said is still wreaking havoc on supply chains, could derail plans to deploy three more sets of satellites before June’s completion. “I think we’re in decent shape,” he said, “but everybody in the sector is attempting to balance the complexities of operating as we are right now, as well as the aspects in which machinery must deliver on schedule to be installed, among other things.”

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