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In a surprising move, OneWeb will be launching a number of the satellites for its nascent broadband constellation on SpaceX rockets. Elon Musk’s company and its Starlink internet service is arguably OneWeb’s primary competitor.
OneWeb, which is owned in part by the UK government, has contracted with Russia’s space agency Roscosmos for multiple satellite launches using Soyuz spacecraft. However, following worldwide sanctions against Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine, Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin pledged to block all OneWeb launches until the UK divests from the company and OneWeb guarantees the constellation won’t be used for military purposes.
by suspending all launches on Russian rockets.
Two and a half weeks later, OneWeb has come to an agreement with the company that’s the operator of the largest satellite constellation in human history to provide rides for its own satellites. The first SpaceX launch of a batch of OneWeb satellites is expected to happen some time later this year.
OneWeb has already launched two-thirds of its constellation, with 428 of 648 planned satellites already in orbit. Starlink has over 2,100 satellites, with plans for thousands and perhaps even tens of thousands more in coming years.
“We thank SpaceX for their support, which reflects our shared vision for the boundless potential of space,” OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson said in a statement. “With these launch plans in place, we’re on track to finish building out our full fleet of satellites and deliver robust, fast, secure connectivity around the globe.”
The statement goes on to note that the terms of the agreement with SpaceX are confidential.
SpaceX didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
OneWeb says it has activated its service above the 50th parallel in the Northern Hemisphere.
Starlink now operates in public beta across much of Europe and North America, as well as a few Southern Hemisphere countries. Musk also recently activated.