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Russian invasion casts doubt over OneWeb launch

February 28, 2022

Russia’s space agency Roscosmos has suspended its cooperation agreement with Arianespace and is pulling out staff from the French launch site at Kourou in French Guiana. Roscosmos boss Dmitri Rogozin has tweeted confirming the action which he says is in retaliation over the trade sanctions imposed on Russia.

The Russian Tweet said: “In response to EU sanctions against our enterprises, Roskosmos is suspending cooperation with European partners in organizing space launches from the Kourou cosmodrome and withdrawing its technical personnel, including the consolidated launch crew, from French Guiana.”

The move places in doubt a planned on March 4th of a batch of OneWeb satellites from Russia’s Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan.

OneWeb has declined to comment on whether the launch will proceed. OneWeb is backed by the UK government as well as India’s Bharti Group.

“The launch campaign is in the final stages,” says Anatoly Zak, editor of website RussianSpaceWeb, quoted by the New Scientist. “Much of the work is done, so who knows what will happen. It looks like it is proceeding at this point.”

The rocket, and its cargo of 36 OneWeb satellites, is ready for launch on March 2nd. The satellites arrived on February 16th for integration into the Soyuz launch rocket.

The launch is contracted via Arianespace which sub-contracts the task to Roscosmos. Arianespace owns a number of Russian-built Soyuz rockets which it uses for each OneWeb launch. Arianespace is contracted to launch all 648 OneWeb satellites although it uses the French Guiana launch site as well as Baikonur and another site in Russia’s far East at Vostochny.

It is probable that Arianespace will switch future OneWeb launches to its French Guiana facility.

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