In late 2020, the improved Ariane 6 rocket will become available for use by customers.
Arianespace says that its launch service agreement specifies the use of the qualification launch of the Ariane 62 version, scheduled for the second half of 2020; the two Ariane 6 options (either in its 62 version, accommodating up to 36 OneWeb satellites, or in the 64 version, up to 78 OneWeb satellites) will be used starting in 2023.
OneWeb is planning to launch a total of 648 satellites in its first-stages to circle the planet with broadband coverage. Other plans could add thousands of extra satellites over the following years.
In other words, OneWeb is likely to end up as a major client for Arianespace over the next five or more years.
OneWeb says its satellites will be launched by the first Ariane 62 into a near-polar orbit at an altitude of 500 kilometers before raising themselves to their operational orbit. The company is building a network of LEO satellites that will provide high-speed, low latency services to a range of markets, including aeronautics, maritime, backhaul services, community WiFi, emergency response services and more.
Central to its mission, OneWeb will also be focused on connecting schools and working to bridge the digital divide for people across the globe. With its system deployed, the OneWeb constellation will enable user terminals capable of offering 3G, LTE, 5G and WiFi coverage, giving high-speed access around the world.
The all-new Ariane 6 launch vehicle has two variants — Ariane 62 and Ariane 64 — which allows Arianespace to offer a wide new range of launch services and solutions to customers. OneWeb has already contracted with Arianespace for 21 Soyuz launches to ensure the timely deployment of its constellation, whose first successful launch occurred on February 27, 2019, from the Kourou, French Guiana Space Center (CSG).
Adrian Steckel, OneWeb CEO, said, the company is delighted to announce this partnership with Arianespace to launch additional satellites for the constellation using Ariane 6. OneWeb’s first launch represented the start of the firm’s mission to provide connectivity for everyone, everywhere, and the company thanks Arianespace for their professionalism and fundamental role in making this launch a success. With OneWeb’s first six satellites in orbit, first customer contracts signed, the company has entered its commercialisation phase and is one step closer to the provisioning of global connectivity.