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Ariane 6 gets OneWeb launch contract

Capitalism in space: Arianespace announced this week that it has signed a three-launch contract with OneWeb that will use its new Ariane 6 rocket, including the rocket’s maiden flight.

The 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 utilized starting in 2023.

The OneWeb 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.

Because OneWeb is in direct competition with SpaceX for building the first space-based internet satellite constellation, it has looked for other launch companies to put its satellites in orbit. Thus, the business to launch the company’s planned 650-plus satellite constellation has gone to Arianespace, Russia, Virgin Orbit, and others. This in turn appears to have saved Ariane 6, which is going to be more expensive than SpaceX’s rockets and was therefore having trouble getting launch contracts.

Isn’t competition wonderful? It looks like it is going to take us to the stars.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

2 comments

  • geoffc

    I assume Ariane 6 will have the same 5m fairing as Ariane 5, but is the extra number mass or volume limited? 36 vs 78 is quite a difference.

    I do wonder how Starlink is going to compare in size to OneWeb.

  • Dick Eagleson

    In terms of total sat population on-orbit, Starlink is planned to be several times larger than OneWeb – nearly 12,000 satellites in two deployment phases of 4,500 and 7,500 birds, respectively, vs. less than 3,000 in two phases of 650 and 2,000 when fully built out. The individual birds in the OneWeb constellation will mass about 150 kg each. The Starlink birds will probably be somewhat larger.

    The Starlink birds will also incorporate laser cross-links making each bird a router and the entire constellation a redundant mesh network that minimizes transmission latency. The OneWeb birds will lack this feature and rely much more on ground-based equipment to handle routing. This will result in longer end-to-end transmission latencies than Starlink. This “feature” of OneWeb was apparently insisted upon by the Russians and Chinese as the price of OneWeb entry into their domestic markets. Both nations censor their domestic internets. In-space routing would allow users to entirely bypass both “The Great Firewall of China” and its Russian equivalent.

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