OneWeb resumes satellite launches with flight from Russian cosmodrome

The company seeks to provide satellite broadband connectivity across much of the Arctic.

By Reuters - December 21, 2020

MOSCOW — OneWeb, the satellite firm rescued by the British government and India’s Bharti Group, resumed flights on Friday in its push to provide global broadband coverage as 36 of its satellites blasted off into orbit from Russia’s Far East.

The launch carried out by Arianespace and its Starsem affiliate was the first fully commercial flight from Russia’s new Vostochny cosmodrome, Russia’s Roscosmos space corporation said.

“The Soyuz-2.1b launch vehicle together with a Fregat booster and 36 @OneWeb communication satellites lifted off from the #Vostochny cosmodrome,” it tweeted.

The launch will expand OneWeb’s number of in-orbit satellites to 110, part of a low earth orbit fleet of 648 designed to establish a high-speed, low-latency global connectivity, the satellite operator said.

The launch should put it on track to offer commercial services in Britain, as well as around much of the circumpolar Arctic, including in Alaska, Northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland and Canada in 2021, it added in a statement ahead of the launch.

[British satellite firm OneWeb emerges from bankruptcy]

OneWeb said last month it had emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with $1 billion in equity investment from a consortium of the U.K. government and India’s Bharti Enterprises, the new owners of the U.K.-based company.

OneWeb, founded in 2014 by entrepreneur Greg Wyler, planned to launch 650 satellites into low earth orbit to provide universal internet but became locked in a constant struggle to raise funds.

Reporting by Tom Balmforth.