The first six OneWeb F6 satellites have been launched aboard an Arianespace Soyuz rocket. Once complete, the 650-satellite OneWeb constellation will offer global high-speed internet coverage.
“This successful launch is a historic milestone for OneWeb, and marks the start of a new phase for our company as we begin scaling our satellite constellation in preparation to start full commercial services,” said OneWeb CEO Adrian Steckel.
The Soyuz-2 rocket carrying the six OneWeb F6 satellites lifted off from the Guiana Space Center at 21:37 UTC (18:37 local time) on February 27, 2019. Approximately one hour after a successful launch, the first two OneWeb satellites separated from the rocket’s Fregat upper stage. Following an ACS boost ignition, the remaining six satellites were deployed into a low Earth orbit.
The OneWeb satellites are developed and built by the aptly named OneWeb Satellites, a partnership between OneWeb and Airbus Defense and Space formed in 2012. The satellites utilise the Ka and Ku spectrum bands to communicate with the Groud Network, the section of the OneWeb infrastructure that will connect the network to the internet. The Ku band will then be used to communicate with user terminals and to allow the satellites to communicate with one another.
Although yesterday’s launched deployed just 6 of the proposed 650 satellites required for the network, OneWeb is already projecting customer demos in 2020 and full commercial coverage by 2021. Once online, the OneWeb network will provide global internet access including to regions of the world that previously had little to no coverage.
“Our system will be able to offer significantly lower latency and faster speeds,” said Steckel. “We designed our system to create a coverage footprint over the entire planet – including previously unconnected rural areas, seas, and airspaces.”
The next OneWeb launch has not yet been announced however, the communications provider has contracted Arianespace to launch a total of 24 multi-sat missions aboard the provider’s Soyuz and Ariane 6 rockets. An additional 39 single-sat launches are also contracted to be launched aboard Virgin Orbit LauncherOne rockets.