Arianespace launches 34 OneWeb satellites in first mission of 2022
TAMPA, Fla. — Arianespace launched another batch of OneWeb satellites Feb. 10 in the launch provider’s first mission of 2022.
A Soyuz rocket lifted off from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, at 1:09 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, carrying 34 satellites for OneWeb’s low Earth orbit (LEO) broadband network.
All satellites were released from the rocket’s Fregat upper stage over the course of nearly four hours, according to a OneWeb social media post, into a near-polar orbit at around 475 kilometers.
The satellites will raise themselves over the next few weeks to an operational altitude at around 1,200 kilometers, where they will join others to expand its network to 428 of a planned 648-strong constellation.
OneWeb’s launch comes a little less than a week after a batch of Starlink satellites encountered a geomagnetic storm during their post-launch climb to their operational orbits. SpaceX said Feb. 8 that up to 80% of this batch of 49 Starlink satellites will soon reenter the atmosphere, or have already done so, as a result.
OneWeb spokeswoman Katie Dowd said the geomagnetic storm isn’t a concern for OneWeb’s satellites because they “inject much higher” than Starlink satellites. SpaceX intentionally deploys Starlink into a low initial orbit so that any satellites that fail during early checkout naturally deorbit quickly.
The Feb. 10 launch was Arianespace’s thirteenth mission for OneWeb but only the second to use a Soyuz rocket launched from Guiana Space Center.
The last time was in February 2019, when Arianespace launched OneWeb’s initial six satellites.
To date, Arianespace has launched five Soyuz missions for OneWeb from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, and six from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia.
Arianespace has said it plans to launch the rest of OneWeb’s constellation this year to enable the company to provide global services.
Meanwhile, OneWeb continues to signal agreements with companies worldwide to distribute its planned connectivity services.
The latest was Feb. 7, when OneWeb announced a distribution deal with satellite communications provider Marlink to connect business operations in remote locations. The agreement is focused initially on the energy sector in regions above the 50th parallel north, OneWeb said, but will expand early next year to include global maritime, enterprise and humanitarian sectors.
Marlink recently signed a similar deal with satellite operator SES that would enable Marlink’s customers to access O3b mPower, the next-generation medium Earth orbit constellation that SES expects to start deploying this year.
In September, private equity firm Providence Equity Partners agreed to buy a majority of Marlink in a transaction valuing it at $1.4 billion.