Launch of OneWeb rocket to enable commercial services


The venerable Russian Soyuz has been commissioned to launch the OneWeb network

OneWeb, a London-based tech company looking to develop global internet services delivered from space, will reach an important milestone on Thursday.

The company has launched 36 more satellites, increasing the number of mega constellations in orbit to 254.

More is needed to complete the network, but this number is sufficient to start providing commercial services to the vast regions of the Northern Hemisphere.

This should start at the end of the year.

“These things don’t happen overnight. It’s been a lot of work over the past few months, but this launch is special,” said OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson. Stated.

“This allows a connection from 50 degrees north latitude to the Arctic and covers Northern Europe, the United Kingdom, Greenland, Canada, Alaska and Iceland,” he told BBC News.

50 North Graphic

Satellite density after Thursday enables services above 50 degrees north latitude

The latest batch of satellites will rise from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Russian Far East.

The Soyuz carrier rocket is timed to leave the launch pad at exactly 09:48 (12:48 GMT; 13:48 BST) local time. Confirmation of the successful release of all spacecraft is not expected to be achieved until a few hours later, along with the acquisition of those signals.

It’s been over a year since Bertie Global, a conglomerate between the British government and India. Bidding to buy OneWeb from bankruptcy, Each will invest $ 500 million (£ 400 million) into the struggling company.

Since then, other investors have participated in the project and are confident of its future viability.Among these, the chief Eutelsat, France’s leading satellite operator..

And Bharti’s decision to invest another $ 500 million in ventures this week It essentially completes the funding ($ 2.4 billion) needed to deploy the rest of the mega constellation (a fleet orbiting about 650 spacecraft). This will require 10 more launches beyond Thursday’s mission, but by mid-2022.

Very important to the UK market was the announcement on Sunday. Memorandum of Understanding signed between OneWeb and BT, a UK telecommunications provider.. The pair is to explore how they can work together, both in the UK and around the world.

Artwork satellite

Artwork: Ultimately, OneWeb can send about 7,000 satellites

BT can occupy a very large share of the UK’s overall connection capacity. Discussions are ongoing, but the idea is that telecommunications giants will deploy OneWeb as part of their broadband solutions.

This allows so-called “not-spots” (where internet or phone coverage is very limited or zero) to get a OneWeb-enabled local hub from which individual consumers can get slices of bandwidth. It will be like.

“Our service is to provide fiber optic-like connectivity where there is no fiber. Our goal is for companies like BT and other telcos around the world to fill the holes in the network. To be able to better serve our customers by adding robustness to our network. “

This was part of the UK Government’s goal of gaining market share on OneWeb last year. Ministers are promoting a policy called Project Gigabit. It aims to significantly improve rural broadband coverage. OneWeb is expected to play an important role in this initiative.

OneWeb’s main competitors in the Internet Mega Constellation business are Starlink, founded by California tech entrepreneur Elon Musk and his SpaceX rocket company.

Starlink currently has more than 1,500 satellites in orbit and needs to track thousands more (the network architecture requires more satellites than OneWeb). However, it’s already in beta testing its Internet connectivity, and Musk said this week that he wants to make global services available to as many as 500,000 users in 12 months by August.


OneWeb: Launching a low earth orbit satellite constellation is a costly business

OneWeb trials will increase over the fall, with the potential for commercial “service switch-ons” above 50 degrees north latitude in November.

It must be said that the two competitors follow different business models. OneWeb works with partner carriers to provide broadband services, but Starlink sells most of its bandwidth directly to its customers.

What is clear is that these two companies are far more advanced than any tracking pack.

Wannabes includes a proposal from Amazon’s retail giant known as Kuiper and a concept from Canada’s long-established satellite communications company Telesat called Lightspeed. However, neither has launched an operational spacecraft.

European Commission The Chinese government is also discussing the launch of the Internet Constellation, but the details of what these systems will look like are not yet known.

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