OneWeb satellite artist impression

OneWeb launches 34 more satellites as it edges closer to commercial service

Image credit: OneWeb

Satellite firm OneWeb, which is owned by the UK Government, has confirmed it has successfully launched an additional 34 satellites into its constellation.

The successful launch, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, brings OneWeb’s total in-orbit constellation to 322 satellites. This amounts to nearly half of its planned fleet of 648 low earth orbit satellites that will deliver high-speed, low-latency global connectivity on the ground.

Liftoff occurred yesterday around 7pm BST and after leaving the Earth’s atmosphere the satellites were separated from the rocket and dispensed in nine batches approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes into the flight. OneWeb confirmed it had made contact with all 34 satellites following their deployment.

In July last year, the UK Government purchased a stake in OneWeb, which had fallen into bankruptcy before its proposed internet service was able to get off the ground.

It was bought as a means to expand the UK space industry following the country’s withdrawal from the EU and its Galileo project.

The firm has been building partnerships with major communications providers including AT&T, BT, and Northwestel, that are aimed at bringing improved digital communication services to some of the hardest-to-reach parts of the world.

In February, it emerged that BT was considering using the technology to fill internet black holes in rural parts of the UK.

OneWeb said it remains on track to start its service this year at the 50th parallel and above with a global service starting in 2022. The company added that it is seeing growing demand from telecommunications providers, ISPs, and governments.

Neil Masterson, OneWeb CEO, commented: “The team continues to stay focused on execution and delivering our network. I am enormously grateful to the team and all our partners who are making these milestones possible.

“We continue to see a huge and growing demand for our services from global customers, and we are incredibly excited about both introducing commercial service and scaling our global network.”

Elon Musk’s firm SpaceX has created a similar service called Starlink which also beams broadband speed internet connections down to Earth. That service has already launched to some customers in the US following a series of delays.

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