Capitalism in space: OneWeb yesterday announced that it has signed a contract with New Space India, the commercial arm of India’s space agency, to launch additional satellites using that nation’s GSLV rocket.
The first launch with New Space India is anticipated in 2022 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota. The launches will add to OneWeb’s total in-orbit constellation of 428 satellites, 66 per cent of the planned total fleet, to build a global network that will deliver high-speed, low-latency connectivity.
The company refused to release any additional details. The deal however clearly indicates two things. First, OneWeb wants an alternative to using SpaceX for launching the satellites that the Russians had been previously contracted to put in space. This gives it flexibility should one or another company have issues. For example, SpaceX simply might not have the immediate capacity to launch all these satellites as quickly as OneWeb wants. This second deal distributes that capacity across two launch vendors.
Second, it is likely in the long run that India is going to get a lot of business from OneWeb. This gain for India is Russia’s total loss. The deal will also help get India out of its extended panic over the Wuhan flu. Since the arrival of COVID India’s space industry has ground to a halt, completing few launches. The OneWeb deal might force it to come back to life.