The previously bankrupt communications provider OneWeb announced September 21 that it would resume launch operations as early as December.
OneWeb was founded in 2012 with plans to offer broadband internet globally with the use of thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit. Eight years later after deploying just 74 of a planned 650-satellite constellation, the ambitious goal was a distant memory as OneWeb filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
In July, the British government and Indian telecommunications titan Bharti Global agreed to throw the company a lifeline purchasing it for $1 billion. The agreement is yet to be finalised and the company is still currently considered to be in Chapter 11. However, OneWeb is preparing to hit the ground running.
In a September 21 press release, OneWeb confirmed it had renegotiated its launch contract with Arianespace. The original contract called for a total of 21 launches including at least one aboard the launch provider’s next-generation Ariane 6 rocket. The new contract calls for 16 more launches, two fewer than was left on the previous contract with all missions to be carried to orbit aboard Soyuz rockets.
OneWeb plans to launch between 34 and 36 satellites aboard each of the 16 missions. The first of these missions is expected to be launched aboard a Soyuz rocket from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in December. If successfully, the launch will bring the total number of OneWeb satellites in orbit to 110.
As OneWeb plans to resume its launch campaign, the company has confirmed that it hopes to begin offering commercial services by the end of 2021. However, this date appears to be overly ambitious.
In January this year prior to OneWeb filing for bankruptcy, the company had stated it hopes to begin customer demos by the end of 2020 and offer full commercial services by 2021. If OneWeb is to be believed, almost a year lost to bankruptcy has barely dented their timeline if at all.