Arianespace launches 36 new OneWeb constellation satellites into orbit
Soyuz lifts off on Flight ST29 from Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia on Arianespace’s fourth mission at the service of OneWeb, carrying 36 satellites for the Low Earth satellite operator's constellation network.Photo: Arianespace

Arianespace launches 36 new OneWeb constellation satellites into orbit

London, December 18, 2020

European commercial satellite launch company Arianespace today successfully placed 36 new OneWeb constellation satellites into orbit, marking the resumption of the deployment of the satellite network of the UK-based company, in which India's Bharti Enterprises has a strategic minority stake.

The network is now composed of 110 satellites in low Earth orbit.

Flight ST29, which was Arianespace's first mission from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia. It was OneWeb's fourth launch overall and the third in 2020.

Today’s launch, Flight ST29, was the 53rd Soyuz mission carried out by Arianespace and its Starsem affiliate, and took off at 9:26:26 p.m. local time (12:26:26 p.m. UTC).

“Congratulations to all teams who made this first commercial 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. I sincerely want to thank OneWeb for their trust. I am delighted that Arianespace and Starsem have contributed – for the fourth time – to this client’s ultimate ambition of providing Internet access to everyone, anywhere, at any time,” said Stéphane Israël, Chief Executive Officer of Arianespace.

Arianespace has launched 110 OneWeb satellites to date. The initial six were orbited by Soyuz Flight VS21 from French Guiana during February, 2019. In February and March 2020, Arianespace and its Starsem affiliate successfully launched 68 OneWeb satellites from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Soyuz Flights ST27 and ST28.

Pursuant to an amended launch contract with OneWeb, Arianespace and Starsem will perform 15 more Soyuz launches through 2021 and 2022. These launches will enable OneWeb to complete the deployment of its full global constellation of low Earth orbit satellites by the end of 2022.

OneWeb’s mission is to bring internet everywhere to everyone, by creating a global connectivity platform through a next-generation satellite constellation in low Earth orbit. The OneWeb constellation will deliver high-speed, low-latency connectivity to a wide range of customer sectors, including aviation, maritime, backhaul services, and for governments, emergency response services and more. Central to its purpose, OneWeb seeks to bring connectivity to every place where fiber cannot reach, and thereby bridge the digital divide.

The satellite prime contractor is OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus Defence and Space. The satellites were produced in Florida, USA in its leading-edge satellite manufacturing facilities that can build up to two satellites per day on a series production line dedicated to spacecraft assembly, integration, and testing.

OneWeb had launched 74 satellites before filing for Chapter 11 protection in March this year. On July 3, Bharti Enterprises had announced that a UK Government consortium led by it had won, through a court-supervised sale process, the bid for acquisition of OneWeb.

A separate announcement by OneWeb said the consortium had committed to provide more than $ 1 billion to acquire the company and fund the full restart of its business operations.

Bharti said in a press release on that date that the deal would enable OneWeb to complete the construction of a global satellite constellation that will provide enhanced broadband and other services to mobile and fixed terminals in countries around the world.

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