OneWeb to launch broadband satellites from India after cutting Russian ties
Image credit: OneWeb
Satellite firm OneWeb, which is owned by the UK government, has signed a contract with India for future rocket launches after the Ukraine invasion cut off its ability to use Russian rockets.
The UK took a £400m share in the failed digital firm to rescue it from bankruptcy in July 2020, as part of a consortium with India’s Bharti Global, following a bidding war.
The company was originally trying to provide satellite internet worldwide with a constellation of up to 648 satellites. However, the firm only managed to launch 74 of its low-Earth orbit satellites before going bust as it failed to secure funding to continue the project.
In early March it suspended its use of all Russian-operated spaceports after the country began its invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.
OneWeb’s efforts to continue bolstering its satellite constellation will see it conduct the first launch with New Space India later this year from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota.
The launches will add to OneWeb’s total in-orbit constellation of 428 satellites, 66 per cent of the planned total fleet, to build a global network that will deliver high-speed, low-latency connectivity.
Sunil Bharti Mittal, OneWeb executive chairman, said: “This is yet another historic day for collaboration in space, thanks to the shared ambition and vision of New Space India and OneWeb.
“This most recent agreement on launch plans adds considerable momentum to the development of OneWeb’s network, as we work together across the space industry toward our common goal of connecting communities globally.”
This launch contract follows a separate agreement between OneWeb and SpaceX to enable the company to resume satellite launches, announced in March 2022.
OneWeb has already activated service with its network at the 50th parallel and above, as demand for the company’s broadband connectivity services continues to grow from multiple sectors and markets.
Following a raft of deals with the Indian nation, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is travelling to Gujarat today to meet his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.
“As I arrive in India today, I see vast possibilities for what our two great nations can achieve together. From next-generation 5G telecoms and AI to new partnerships in health research and renewable energy – the UK and India are leading the world,” Johnson said
“Our powerhouse partnership is delivering jobs, growth and opportunities for our people, and it will only go from strength to strength in the coming years.
“We’re making a big breakthrough on OneWeb, the UK’s satellites. Because there was a problem caused by the Russians deciding they couldn’t launch any more from Kazakhstan.
“We’ve fixed it and OneWeb has the potential to do a lot of good around the world.”
Downing Street said that in addition to the OneWeb announcement, new commercial deals will include Indian software firm Mastek creating 1,600 jobs in the UK in the next three years.
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