UK MPs regret OneWeb has to turn to US
April 1, 2022
By Chris Forrester
The UK House of Commons parliamentary Defence Committee, with a role to examine British government action, has complained over the UK’s handling of the recent OneWeb predicament in having to switch rocket launchers.
OneWeb had contracted with Arianespace which itself used Russian-built Soyuz rockets. The rockets were supposed to launch 6 batches of OneWeb satellites this year and thus complete the OneWeb constellation. It has now had to turn to Space X for launches. The MPs says the Government should have a launcher plan that would accommodate the satellites. The UK Government has a 19 per cent financial stake in OneWeb.
George Freeman, parliamentary under-secretary for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) ministry, responding to the Defence Committee, admitted that that a domestic UK launch option would have made the post-Soyuz problems easier.
However, he added that the UK was not in a position to tell OneWeb what to do.
“One of the key reasons we made a commitment to establish a UK launch capability is to diversify and have a more sovereign capability here in the UK,” Freeman stated. “We want to reduce dependence on America and Russia.”
He also recognised that the current UK spaceport plans are for smaller satellites and would be much more expensive on a ‘per satellite’ launch.
One of the government’s ministry officials, Rebecca Evernden, BEIS’s director for space, told the Committee that the current Spaceport plans for Scotland could only carry about 6 craft per launch.