Arianespace’s multi-million Euro contract from OneWeb (currently in Chapter 11 bankruptcy reconstruction) has been heavily revised.
OneWeb wants 3 less rocket launches. Each will carry 34-36 OneWeb satellites and the full OneWeb constellation should be in orbit by the end of 2022.
The new launch manifest will see Arianespace carry out 16 launches on its Europeanised Soyuz rockets. This means that two Soyuz launches have been cancelled, and also that OneWeb is no longer the debut customer on the new Ariane 6 rocket.
Arianespace’s Soyuz vehicle has already successfully placed 3 batches of OneWeb satellites into orbit but the bankruptcy brought all plans to a halt. The original scheme expected one Soyuz rocket launch to happen every month throughout 2021 and building up to a fleet of some 650 satellites.
Just 74 craft are currently in orbit, and Arianespace says the launch manifest will kick back in during December this year with 36 satellites on board.
The current plan will see two Soyuz launches managed at Arianespace’s usual Kourou, French Guiana launch site. Other Soyuz launches will happen from either Baikonur or Russia’s new launch facility at Vostochny in Russia’s Far East.
Prior the bankruptcy OneWeb had contracts in place with Virgin Orbit but they have been cancelled and are the subject of a legal action between Virgin and OneWeb.