Russia-Ukraine war pushes OneWeb into the arms of rival SpaceX

OneWeb's internet satellites being put into orbit from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
(Image credit: OneWeb)

Bharti-backed OneWeb has been building itself into a big player in the internet satellite segment to compete with Starlink, which is part of Elon Musk's much hyped SpaceX program. 

But, as it happens, the low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite communications company OneWeb has been launching its satellites with the help of the French space firm Arianespace which has been using the Russian Soyuz rocket. To date, Arianespace has launched five Soyuz missions for OneWeb from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, and six from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia.

Now with Russia being persona non grata due to its war with Ukraine, OneWeb is faced with inevitable problems. The British government, which holds a stake in OneWeb, said that it was reviewing its participation in further projects with Russia after its "illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine."

In the event, OneWeb has decided to sleep with the enemy, as it were.

OneWeb to resume satellite launches

OneWeb announced yesterday that it has entered into an agreement with SpaceX that will enable it (OneWeb) to resume satellite launches.

The first launch with SpaceX is anticipated in 2022 and will add to OneWeb’s total in-orbit constellation that currently stands at 428 satellites (66% of its planned fleet). OneWeb's network will deliver high-speed, low-latency global connectivity. OneWeb has chosen to keep it under wraps its terms of the agreement with SpaceX.

OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson in a statement said: "We thank SpaceX for their support, which reflects our shared vision for the boundless potential of space. 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."

OneWeb has activated service with its network at the 50th parallel and above, and early partners are initiating service. OneWeb’s offers satellite broadband connectivity services to telecommunications providers, aviation and maritime markets, and governments worldwide. 

SpaceX's Starlink too uses low earth orbit satellites to provide internet access to regions that are underserved or hard to reach for other service providers.

OneWeb, in conjunction with Hughes Communication, is expected to start offering satellite-based internet services in India by mid-2022 and will offer high-speed internet connectivity to remote villages and locations where wired connectivity isn’t feasible.

OneWeb, it may be recalled, had filed objections with the FCC in the US to SpaceX’s second generation Starlink plan on sustainability grounds.

Balakumar K
Senior Editor

Over three decades as a journalist covering current affairs, politics, sports and now technology. Former Editor of News Today, writer of humour columns across publications and a hardcore cricket and cinema enthusiast. He writes about technology trends and suggest movies and shows to watch on OTT platforms.