Arianespace launches OneWeb past the halfway mark
TAMPA, Fla. — OneWeb has contacted all 36 satellites launched from Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome Oct. 14, enlarging the broadband constellation beyond its halfway mark toward full deployment next year.
A Soyuz-2.1b rocket successfully launched the latest batch of OneWeb satellites at 5:40 a.m. Eastern in Arianespace’s eleventh mission for the operator.
The launch expands OneWeb’s network to 358 satellites of a planned 648-strong constellation in low Earth orbit.
OneWeb said it has officially started service demonstrations following the launch, showcasing its low-latency capabilities in centers located in the United Kingdom and United States.
The venture aims to begin commercial services in the upper part of the Northern Hemisphere by mid-December.
It has an agreement with Arianespace for eight more Soyuz launches before the end of 2022 to deploy the remaining satellites in its constellation.
It is a significant deal for the European launch services provider. Seven of the 10 launch missions that Arianespace has performed so far this year have been for OneWeb.
Launching from India
OneWeb said Oct. 11 that it had signed a letter of intent with India’s ISRO space agency to potentially launch its satellites from the country as soon as 2022, with Indian-built PSLV and GSLV Mark 3 rockets.
Chris McLaughlin, OneWeb’s chief of government, regulation and engagement, described that announcement as a “direction of travel” discussion to back up its Arianespace launch agreement.
“No decisions are yet made but they could provide a support or additional launches beyond them,” McLaughlin told SpaceNews.
He said in an email that the agreement OneWeb has with Arianespace is “fully locked – and paid.”.
Indian conglomerate Bharti Global is OneWeb’s largest shareholder and will own 30% of the venture once certain investment transactions gain regulatory approvals.
OneWeb’s ownership structure has changed multiple times this year as its international mix of shareholders exercised call options to increase their investments.
French satellite operator Eutelsat said Oct. 6 it activated a call option to invest an extra $165 million, making it OneWeb’s second-largest shareholder with nearly 23% of the startup once the deal closes.
That was the last call option among OneWeb’s existing shareholders, according to McLaughlin.
It means OneWeb will have raised nearly $2.9 billion since late 2020 when the venture emerged from bankruptcy restructuring, exceeding the $2.4 billion it said it needed to fund the initial constellation.