OneWeb to resume launches in December, eyes commercial service in 2021

The company plans to launch commercial services in the Arctic by the end of 2021.

By Reuters - September 21, 2020
A rendering of one of OneWeb’s F6 satellites. (OneWeb)

LONDON — OneWeb, the collapsed satellite operator rescued by the British government and India’s Bharti Group, will resume launches with Arianespace in December, putting it on track to begin commercial services next year, it said on Monday.

The return-to-flight launch, the first of 16 under an amended agreement with Arianespace, will increase OneWeb’s in-orbit fleet to 110 satellites, it said.

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Commercial broadband and other communications services will start by the end of 2021 under the plan, it said, initially in Britain, Alaska, Northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland, the Arctic Ocean and Canada.

The agreement is subject to confirmation of the company’s restructuring plan, which saw Britain and Bharti emerge as the winning bidders in a bankruptcy sale in July.

The two companies have pledged to invest a total of $1 billion in OneWeb, aiming to create a competitor to Elon Musk’s SpaceX in the race to use low earth orbit satellites to provide communication services.

U.S. satellite broadband provider Hughes Network Systems joined the OneWeb constellation later in July when it agreed to invest $50 million.

Reporting by Paul Sandle.