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OneWeb to take fleet to 218 craft in orbit

May 25, 2021

By Chris Forrester

Arianespace is due to use a Soyuz rocket on May 27th from Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome to launch an additional 36 OnWeb Low Earth orbit satellites into its existing constellation. The launch will take OneWeb’s fleet to 218 craft.

The satellites will go into a near-Polar orbit at an altitude of 450 kms and the Arianespace mission will have a total duration of three hours and 51 minutes and will include nine separations of four satellites, each of which will raise themselves to their operational orbit.

This will be the seventh launch by Arianespace for OneWeb (and the fourth from Vostochny). Central to its purpose, OneWeb seeks to bring connectivity to places where fibre cannot reach, and thereby helping bridge the digital divide.

Once deployed, the OneWeb constellation will enable user terminals that are capable of offering 3G, LTE, 5G and Wi-Fi coverage, providing high-speed access globally – by air, sea and land. OneWeb says it will start services later this year, initially concentrating on northern latitudes including Canada, Alaska, northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland and the Arctic seas.

The first six OneWeb satellites were successfully orbited by Arianespace on Soyuz Flight VS21 from French Guiana on February 27th 2019. On February 7th 2020, Arianespace and its Starsem affiliate launched 34 OneWeb satellites from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Soyuz Flight ST27. On March 21st 2020, the team successfully delivered an additional 34 satellites into orbit on Soyuz Flight ST28. On December 18th 2020, the first Soyuz from Vostochny placed in orbit 36 satellites on Flight ST29. On March 25th 2021, the second Soyuz from Vostochny successfully placed in orbit 36 satellites on Flight ST30. Finally, ST31 mission on April 26th 2021, orbited 36 satellites from Vostochny.

OneWeb’s constellation of 650 satellites will deliver high-speed, low-latency enterprise grade connectivity services to a wide range of customer sectors including enterprise, government, maritime and aviation customers.

The Arianespace backlog of payloads remaining to be launched for Airbus Defence and Space (excluding the remaining OneWeb satellites) counts 20 additional payloads. After the May 27 (Flight ST32) launch there are 12 Soyuz launches remain under contract with Arianespace which has more than 440 additional satellites to be launched in the Arianespace’s backlog.

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