A year after deploying its first 6 satellites into orbit, OneWeb has added to its global internet constellation with the launch of 34 new satellites. The mission was the first of 10 the company hopes to launch in 2020.
The 34 OneWeb satellites were launched aboard an Arianespace Soyuz 2 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 21:42 UTC yesterday (Feb. 6). The first two OneWeb satellites were then successfully deployed into orbit at an altitude of approximately 450 kilometres.
The Fregat upper stage then performed eight planned burns deploying four more satellites following each burn. The last four OneWeb satellites were finally deployed into Low Earth orbit just under four hours after liftoff. The mission was concluded with a final Fregat burn to deorbit the rocket’s upper stage.
With the successful completition of the launch, the OneWeb constellation is now 40 satellites strong. The company hopes to launch an additional 9 missions over the next 10 months, each carrying between 32 and 36 satellites. According to OneWeb, this should allow the company to begin offering limited service as early as the end of the year.
“Importantly, today’s mission also brings us closer to our next step, realizing our ultimate vision of providing access to high speed, reliable internet to everyone, everywhere,” said OneWeb CEO Adrian Stecke. “Later this year, we will provide service in the arctic region and 2021 will see OneWeb achieve global coverage, making the digital divide a thing of the past.”
Yesterday’s launch was the 50th Soyuz mission operated by Arianespace. The company began launching the Russian-made rocket in 2011. The vehicle is used by the company to offer medium-size lift capabilities to supplement the light Vega and heavy-lift Ariane 5. In addition to launching Soyuz rockets from Baikonur, Arianespace also utilises a unique variant of the vehicle to launch missions from the company’s launch site in French Guiana.