On the one hand, the proposed OneWeb mega-constellation of 648 satellites is making considerable progress. Founder Greg Wyler tweeted that two of the company’s six initial craft are now in place on the launch rocket’s automatic dispenser.
However, last week it was reported that a “microhole” problem was discovered on part of the Russian rocket. At the time it was said that experts from Russia’s Soyuz rocket business, who are at the Arianespace launch site in Kourou, French Guiana are working on the problem.
Now there’s confusion, with Russia’s Sputnik news agency reporting that Arianespace (which is responsible for the launch) has not accepted the offer by the Russian Lavochkin Research and Production Association to “patch up” the hole in the pipeline that supplies helium to fuel tanks of the Fregat booster on the Soyuz-ST carrier rocket at the Kourou space centre.
“Arianespace company has not accepted the offer by the Russian Lavochkin Research and Production Association, which is the producer of the Fregat booster, to repair the unsealed welding seam by putting a bandage on it. We are currently negotiating the possibility to carry out the welding works at the space center, but Arianespace opposes this idea as it believes that repairs should be carried out at the factory”, the source told Sputnik.
One option evidently under consideration is to swap out the launch vehicles, and replace the exiting rocket Upper Stage (where the microhole is causing problems) with a reserve Upper Stage, and to repair/replace the original at a later date.
The launch was originally scheduled for February 19th, but the indications are that this could now slip into March.