OneWeb has launched 36 satellites today, 1 July, at 6:18 pm IST. Named Flight ST33, the launch took place from the Soyuz launch complex in Vostochny Cosmodrome, a Russian spaceport. Arianespace will be operating this launch on OneWeb’s behalf, and this will be its fifth launch of 2021. The duration of the mission (from liftoff to separation of the satellites) will take about three hours and 51 minutes.
OneWeb’s eighth launch has the words ‘Hello North Pole!’ branded on the Russian Soyuz rocket. Image credit: OneWeb
The company will achieve its ‘Five to 50‘ goal, providing connectivity services to places about 50 degrees North latitude to the North Pole by year-end. This includes Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Northern Europe, Finland, the United Kingdom, Iceland and the Arctic seas. This will be its eighth launch and it will have a total fleet of 254 satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO). After separation from the rocket, the satellites will place themselves in their operational orbit.
Also known as the 50th parallel north, it is a circle of latitude that is 50 degrees north of the Earth’s equatorial plane. It crosses the European and Asian continents, along with the Pacific Ocean, North America and the Atlantic Ocean.
As OneWeb prepares for full commercial operation in these regions in the next six months, service trials will begin this summer in several critical locations, including Alaska and Canada. ‘Hello North Pole!’ is branded on the rocket to show the progress OneWeb has made to secure its Arctic coverage.
According to a press statement, the first six OneWeb satellites were successfully orbited by Arianespace on Soyuz Flight VS21 from French Guiana on 27 February, 2019.
Almost a year later, on 7 February, 2020, 34 satellites were launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Russia. On 21 March, 2020, an additional 34 satellites were sent into orbit, followed by 36 satellites on 18 December.
Another 36 satellites were launched on 25 March, 2021 and on 26 April, Flight ST31 put 36 satellites into orbit. The most recent launch took place on 29 May, 2021, when Flight ST32 successfully delivered 36 satellites into orbit.
OneWeb’s mission, according to its website, is to create a global communication infrastructure with a satellite constellation in LEO. It will serve various customers from the aviation, maritime and corporate sectors along with governments who will benefit from its high-speed, low-latency connectivity. OneWeb’s mission is to deliver connectivity to the most difficult-to-reach areas where fibre cannot reach, and bridge the digital divide.
Yesterday, OneWeb announced it has received an additional $500 million (over Rs 3,700 crore) in investment from Bharti Global, which becomes the largest shareholder in the company. The satellite communications company was rescued last year by billionaire Sunil Mittal-run Bharti Group along with the UK government.