Astronomers admit new satellite constellations “are not a threat” to Hubble

In a June 5, 2023 press release from the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) that operates both the Hubble and Webb space telescopes, astronomers admitted that the increased number of orbiting satellites from SpaceX and OneWeb have had little impact on Hubble’s observations, and even that impact has been reduced by new software tools.

Stark applied the new tool, based on the image analysis technique known as the Radon Transform, to identify satellite trails across Hubble’s camera with the widest field of view, the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). In 2002 the satellite streaks were present in five percent of ACS exposures, with many of those too faint to discern easily. This rose to ten percent by 2022, although the typical brightness of the detected trails remained unchanged.

…”To date, these satellite trails have not had a significant impact on research with Hubble,” said Tom Brown, Head of STScI’s Hubble Mission Office. “The cosmic rays that strike the telescope’s detectors are a bigger nuisance.”

Radiation from space hits the ACS electronic detectors on every exposure, leaving streaks. These are easy to identify from exposure to exposure. The same holds true for artificial satellites. “The average width I measured for satellites was 5 to 10 pixels. The ACS’ widest view is 4,000 pixels across, so a typical trail will affect less than 0.5% of a single exposure. So not only can we flag them, but they don’t impact the majority of pixels in individual Hubble images. Even as the number of satellites increases, our tools for cleaning the pictures will still be relevant,” said Stark. [emphasis mine]

In other words, the claims by many astronomers that the increase in satellites is a threat to astronomy have been exaggerated. The new satellites might have a greater impact on ground-based telescopes, but based on these numbers (which would be comparable if not better for the giant 8-meter-plus big telescopes on Earth), that impact should be as easily mitigated.

I am gob-smacked that STScI issued this press release, since it undercuts the entire political narrative of the astronomical community that demands these new satellite constellations be either regulated, limited, or even banned, because otherwise all astronomy will be impossible. Based on the information presented here, none of those regulations are justified, at all, and that narrative is an utter lie.

OneWeb offers its satellite constellation broadband service to the maritime industry

With its full constellation of 634 satellites in orbit, OneWeb has now made its satellite constellation broadband service available to the maritime industry.

With 634 OneWeb operational satellites now in orbit, the OneWeb constellation is complete and fully operational down to 35 degrees latitude. OneWeb will have the final ground stations completed and operational requirements in place, ensuring the company remains on track to deliver full global maritime services by the end of the year. Now OneWeb will start selling services to the maritime industry, via its specialist maritime distribution partners.

OneWeb and its partners have also developed a range of hardware terminal products which are available from trusted maritime communications providers Intellian and Kymeta. Offering hardware terminal products from two established providers with different form factors enables greater choice for customers.

More information here.

SpaceX launches 5 Iridium and 16 OneWeb satellites

SpaceX early today successfully used its Falcon 9 rocket to put five Iridium and sixteen OneWeb satellites into orbit, lifting off from Vandenberg Space Force Base.

The first stage successfully completed its eleventh flight, landing on a drone ship in the Pacific. The two fairings completed their third and sixth flights respectively.

The leaders in the 2023 launch race:

33 SpaceX (with a launch scheduled for tomorrow)
18 China
6 Russia
4 Rocket Lab (with a launch scheduled for tomorrow)

American private enterprise now leads China 37 to 18 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 37 to 30. SpaceX now trails the entire world combined, including American companies, by only 33 to 34.

SpaceX and Canadian phone company Rogers sign deal

SpaceX and the Canadian phone company Rogers Communications yesterday announced that they have signed an agreement to provide satellite-to-phone communications to customers throughout Canada.

Rogers and SpaceX will offer satellite-to-phone technology in Canada using SpaceX’s Starlink low earth orbit satellites and Rogers national wireless spectrum. The companies plan to start with satellite coverage for SMS text and will eventually provide voice and data across the country’s most remote wilderness, national parks and rural highways that are unconnected today.

This deal makes SpaceX now a direct competitor to OneWeb, as it is apparently structured comparable to how OneWeb operates. Up until now, SpaceX has been almost exclusively marketing to individuals, who connect up to Starlink directly. OneWeb meanwhile provides its service to large ground-based customers who then sell their network — enhanced by OneWeb capabilities — to individuals or small businesses. Because of this difference in approach, the two companies were selling their wares to different markets, making the competition less intense.

SpaceX with this deal is copying OneWeb’s approach almost exactly, which means the competition for satellite internet communications is now going to heat up considerably. For users of the internet, this is the best thing that could happen.

India launches 36 OneWeb satellites

India’s space agency ISRO tonight successfully launched 36 OneWeb satellites using its LVM-M3 rocket, the largest version of its GSLV family of rockets.

This launch completes OneWeb’s constellation, with 618 satellites now in orbit, allowing them to now offer internet access worldwide in competition with Starlink. After Russia broke its contract and confiscated 36 OneWeb satellites, the company contracted SpaceX and ISRO to launch the satellites necessary to complete the constellation, with SpaceX doing three launches and ISRO two.

This was India’s second launch in 2023. The leaders in the 2023 launch race remain the same:

20 SpaceX
11 China
5 Russia
3 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise still leads China 23 to 11 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 23 to 19. SpaceX by itself now trails the entire world, including other American companies, 20 to 22.

SpaceX successfully launches 40 OneWeb satellites

SpaceX today successfully launched another 40 OneWeb satellites, using its Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from Cape Canaveral.

This was SpaceX’s third launch for OneWeb, helping to replace the Russians who broke its contract with OneWeb after its invasion of the Ukraine. The first stage completed its thirteenth flight, landing safely on a landing pad at Cape Canaveral. As amazing as this record is, it is not a record for the most reflights, which presently stands at fifteen. The fairings completed their sixth flight.

As of posting not all of OneWeb’s satellites have been deployed.

The 2023 launch race:

16 SpaceX
7 China
3 Russia
1 Rocket Lab
1 Japan
1 India

American private enterprise now leads China 17 to 7 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 17 to 12. SpaceX alone leads the entire world combined, including American companies, 16 to 13.

Intelsat develops airplane WiFi antenna that can access both Intelsat and OneWeb satellites

Intelsat has now completed flight tests of a new airplane WiFi antenna designed to access both Intelsat and OneWeb satellites during flight.

By using the Intelsat and OneWeb satellite networks together, Intelsat can offer the benefits of LEO’s low latency along with the redundancy GEO provides to address network hotspots that LEO networks on their own cannot address. Whether aircraft are flying polar regions or over the most populated cities in the world, the ESA antenna will offer seamless coverage from takeoff to touchdown.

At just 90 pounds and with no moving parts, the new antenna stands just 3.5 inches tall on the top of the aircraft. The terminal’s low profile has the lowest drag of any product Intelsat has ever offered.

With this antenna, Intelsat keeps itself in the game. Airlines can provide more complete coverage by using it and signing deals with both OneWeb and Intelsat to provide WiFi to passengers.

Russia and Europe negotiating return of rockets and satellites

Russia and Europe have begun negotiations concerning the return of the various rockets and satellites that were left stranded in both countries when Russia invaded the Ukraine and all cooperative international agreements between the two entities broke off.

[I]n January 2023, an industry source told that Arianespace representatives were exploring a potential deal with Roskosmos on the exchange of Soyuz rocket components stranded in French Guiana for a group of 36 OneWeb satellites stuck in Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan after the aborted 14th launch for the Internet constellation. The satellites were held at the Russian-controlled facility in Kazakhstan per the order by Rogozin, but the newly appointed head of the Roskosmos State Corporation Yuri Borisov was reportedly opened to negotiations on their fate.

There are many obstacles blocking this deal, the biggest being the on going war itself. It will be necessary to engineers to both places to facilitate the return, and the war right now makes that difficult if not impossible.

Ironically, Russia is likely in more need of this deal than Europe. OneWeb of course wants its satellites back, but it can replace them. Russia it appears is having trouble building complex things like rockets, and needs these rockets and components to replace components it no longer can get in the west.

SpaceX successfully launches 40 OneWeb satellites

Using its Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX tonight successfully placed 40 OneWeb satellites into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

This was only the second launch of this first stage, which landed successfully at Cape Canaveral. The rocket has now deployed all 40 satellites successfully, putting more than 80% of OneWeb’s constellation in orbit.

SpaceX had also planned a Starlink launch from Vandenberg in California tonight, but an hour before launch it was delayed until tomorrow.

At the moment only SpaceX and China have launched any satellites in 2023, and are both tied at 2 launches each.

SpaceX successfully launches 40 OneWeb satellites

SpaceX today used its Falcon 9 rocket to successfully launch 40 OneWeb satellites, joining with India to replace the launch services of Russia.

This was the first SpaceX launch for OneWeb. The first stage completed its fourth flight, landing back at SpaceX’s launchpad at Cape Canaveral. The fairings completed their fifth and sixth flights.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

55 China
55 SpaceX
21 Russia
9 Rocket Lab

The U.S. nowl leads China 79 to 55 in the national rankings, though it still trails the entire world combined 86 to 79.

OneWeb paid ISRO about $130 million for two GSLV launches

It appears that OneWeb agreed to pay India’s space agency ISRO about $130 million for two GSLV launches, putting up 36 satellites on each launch.

When asked how much his business would spend to have 72 satellites launched, OneWeb Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal told reporters in India that it would be more than Rs 1,000 crore.

Rs 1,000 crore translates to about $130 million, which means OneWeb paid about $65 million per launch, which is comparable to SpaceX’s standard Falcon 9 price, before discounts for using previously launched boosters.

It also appears that at present this deal is the only one between ISRO and OneWeb, and that the remaining 576 satellites that OneWeb needs to launch to complete its constellation are still open for others. At present, SpaceX and Relativity have contracts, though it is unclear how many each will launch. I suspect SpaceX will be the majority, since Relativity has not even completed its first test launch. It is also possible that ISRO will get more contracts based on its first launch success.

OneWeb gets deal to provide internet on airplanes

The competition heats up: OneWeb will partner with Panasonic Avionics — which already provides WiFi for 70 airlines — to use the satellite constellation as part of its airline service.

Adding LEO capabilities from OneWeb would enable pole-to-pole coverage with forward link speeds approaching 200 megabits per second (Mbps), according to Panasonic, and return link speeds up to 32 Mbps. Ben Griffin, OneWeb’s vice president for mobility services, said the deal enables the LEO operator to leverage Panasonic’s “reputation, expertise, and reach” to bring its network to airlines.

The agreement also paves the way for OneWeb’s services to be integrated into existing in-flight entertainment systems that Panasonic provides for aircraft.

Both OneWeb and Starlink now have deals to provide internet capabilities for airlines. The competition can only mean the cost to consumers on those planes will likely drop.

Meanwhile, India’s government commercial launch division, NSIL, is prepping a GSLV rocket to launch 36 OneWeb satellites for an October 22nd launch. This will be the first launch replacing the Russians as OneWeb’s launch provider. The launch path over the ocean (with a turn to avoid dropping debris on Sri Lanka) can be seen here.

OneWeb announces delivery of 36 satellites to India for launch

Capitalism in space: OneWeb yesterday announced the delivery of 36 satellites to India for launch on that nation’s biggest rocket, the GSLV-Mark3.

Though no date for launch was mentioned, the press release did say this:

One additional launch will take place this year and three more are targeted for early next year to complete the constellation.

This suggests two launches before the end of the year, one by India with the second already contracted to SpaceX. As for the three launches next year, it is unclear yet who will launch them. OneWeb has contracts with SpaceX, Relativity, and NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), the commercial arm of India’s government space program which is doing this year’s GSLV launch. While Relativity has not yet launched, either SpaceX or NSIL could handle those launches for sure next year.

September 13, 2022 Quick space links

Courtesy of stringer Jay.

OneWeb and Eutelsat sign merger deal

Capitalism in space: OneWeb and Eutelsat today confirmed stories during the past few days to announce today that the two companies have signed a merger agreement.

Eutelsat Communications (Euronext Paris: ETL) and key OneWeb shareholders have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the objective of creating a leading global player in Connectivity through the combination of both companies in an all-share transaction. Eutelsat will combine its 36-strong fleet of GEO satellites with OneWeb’s constellation of 648 Low Earth Orbit satellites, of which 428 are currently in orbit.

The deal still needs regulatory approval, but if this is granted it should be finalized by the first half of ’23.

OneWeb and Eutelsat negotiating possible merger

In a press release today the geosynchronous (GEO) communications satellite company Eutelsat revealed that it is negotiating a possible merger with the low Earth orbit (LEO) communications satellite company OneWeb.

The combined entity would be the first multi-orbit satellite operator offering integrated GEO and LEO solutions and would be uniquely positioned to address a booming ~$16bn (2030) Satellite Connectivity market. OneWeb is one of the two only global LEO networks and has experienced strong momentum over recent months, with service expected to be fully deployed in 2023.

The transaction would represent a logical next step in the successful partnership between Eutelsat and OneWeb, started with Eutelsat’s equity investment in OneWeb in April 2021 and deepened with the Global Distribution Agreement announced in March 2022. Eutelsat currently holds 23% of OneWeb’s share capital, alongside a consortium of high-profile public and private investors.

Under the terms of the transaction being discussed, Eutelsat and OneWeb shareholders would each hold 50% of the combined group’s shares. [emphasis mine]

This appears to be an attempt by Eutelsat to survive, since the future of geosynchronous communications satellites is presently very questionable with the arrival of the many LEO satellite constellations like OneWeb and Starlink.

Meanwhile, the highlighted words in the quote do not match reality. If anything OneWeb has stalled badly since February, when Russia invaded the Ukraine and cancelled the remaining half dozen or so scheduled OneWeb launches. OneWeb has announced new launch contracts with SpaceX and India, but because none have even been scheduled, it increasingly appears its constellation will not be operational by 2023.

OneWeb agrees with SpaceX: Dish’s ground-based plans a frequency threat

Capitalism in space: In a filing with the FCC, OneWeb has come out in full agreement with its competitor SpaceX, stating that Dish’s proposal to use the 12 GHz wavelength would threaten its satellite communications.

In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, OneWeb urged the regulator to reject a request from satellite broadcaster Dish Network and spectrum holder RS Access to run two-way mobile services in the band. If approved, “it would leave significant areas of the United States unusable by the otherwise ubiquitous NGSO [fixed satellite service] user terminals,” wrote Kimberly Baum, OneWeb’s vice president of spectrum engineering and strategy.

To connect user terminals, the SpaceX-owned Starlink and OneWeb megaconstellations use a satellite downlink band that extends from 10.7 GHz to 12.7 GHz. The analysis from OneWeb is the latest in a string of studies assessing how a high-power mobile network in the 12.2-12.7 GHz band would impact NGSO services.

Though the FCC has not yet made a final decision, it has already rejected Dish network’s request to block SpaceX’s use with Starlink of these wavelengths.

OneWeb signs up startup rocket company Relativity for future satellite launches

Capitalism in space: The rocket startup Relativity, which hopes to complete its first test launch of its small Terran-1 rocket before the end of the year, yesterday announced that it has won a launch contract with OneWeb to use its larger but not-yet-ready-for-launch Terran-R rocket to place future OneWeb satellites into orbit.

Under the agreement, Relativity will launch OneWeb’s low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites on Terran-R, the first fully reusable and entirely 3D printed rocket, starting in 2025. These launches will support OneWeb’s deployment of its Gen 2 satellite network, which will add capacity and fresh capabilities to build upon the initial constellation of 648 satellites the company is currently building out.

Since its launch contract with Arianespace using Russian Soyuz rockets fell apart due to Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, OneWeb has been signing up a range of rocket companies, first SpaceX, then India, now Relativity. Apparently the satellite company realized it was a bad idea to depend on only one rocket, and is now lining up several to make sure its satellites can launch on schedule, no matter what.

For Relativity, this agreement solidifies its future, even before it has completed its first launch. It now has five customers for its Terran-R rocket, with contracts worth $1.2 billion. All it has to do now to become a major player in the global launch market is to get its rockets off the ground.

FCC approves Starlink for moving vehicles; rejects DISH’s request to use Starlink wavelength

The FCC made two decisions yesterday that were both favorable to SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation.

First, it gave Starlink permission to provide service on moving vehicles such as cars, trucks, boats, and aircraft. Second, it rejected a DISH network request to use a wavelength in its ground-based system that is presently being used by both Starlink and OneWeb satellites.

This decision will continue the shift in communications from high-orbit/ground-based to low-orbit satellite constellations.

OneWeb to resume satellite launches this year, complete constellation by mid-2023

Capitalism in space: According to one OneWeb official at a conference yesterday, the company now expects to resume launching its satellites on SpaceX and Indian rockets by the fourth quarter of this year and will complete its constellation by the second quarter of next year.

Launches were suspended when Russia refused to do a launch — and confiscated the 36 satellites — after Europe imposed sanctions in response to the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.

Speaking at the Fourth Summit for Space Sustainability by the Secure World Foundation and the U.K. Space Agency, Maurizio Vanotti, vice president of space infrastructure development and partnerships at OneWeb, said new launch agreements with SpaceX and NewSpace India Ltd. (NSIL) would allow the company to launch the remaining satellites of its first-generation system by the second quarter of 2023.

“Our plan is to be back on the launch pad in quarter four, after the summer, and to complete deployment of the constellation by quarter two next year,” he said. It will take several months after that final launch for the satellites to move to their operational orbits, he added. “We’re going to be in service with global coverage, 24/7, by the end of next year,” he said.

At present OneWeb has not revealed the breakdown of launches from the two companies.

The battlelines and alliances shift over big satellite constellations in space

Two stories today show that the competition for frequency use and orbital territory in space are shifting, partly because of international politics and partly due to changes in technology.

First the harsh conflict between OneWeb and Starlink over the positioning and frequency use of their constellations in orbit now appears to have vanished.

The companies have written a joint letter to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), declaring harmony in low Earth orbit (LEO) for spectrum coordination between their respective current and next generation broadband constellations.

In the letter, which is dated June 13, SpaceX and OneWeb request that the FCC disregard previously filed dissenting comments regarding spectrum coordination in LEO. SpaceX and OneWeb both submitted proposals for their first-generation internet constellations to the FCC in 2016, followed by a second round of proposals in 2020 for each company’s next-generation broadband satellites. Simultaneously, both SpaceX and OneWeb submitted complaints with the FCC in an attempt to get a leg up on each other. Now, it seems the companies are operating on friendlier terms.

The article I think correctly speculates that this new-found cooperation probably resulted from OneWeb’s need to use SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets to get its satellites in orbit, caused by Russia’s confiscation of 36 OneWeb satellites in response to Europen sanctions over the Ukraine War. During the launch negotiations I am sure SpaceX demanded both iron out their differences relating to the satellite constellations. While SpaceX might have been able to gain some advantages in that negotiation due to its strong position, I also suspect that OneWeb has not been hurt in any major way.

In the second story, SpaceX ramped up its opposition to a Dish 5G system in a wavelength used by its Starlink satellties.
» Read more

OneWeb successfully tests airplane wi-fi using its satellites

Capitalism in space: During an eleven hour test flight, OneWeb has successfully tested the use of its satellite constellation to provide wi-fi service during long international flights.

Flight tests will continue throughout the rest of this year, with certification of the Sidewinder terminal expected in mid-2023. OneWeb expects to launch its new service in the middle of next year. It has so far launched about two-thirds of its 648-strong constellation of satellites.

This puts the OneWeb and SpaceX’s Starlink constellation in direct competition, since both will be offering this service directly to airlines. Thus, for both the airlines and their customers, this competition will likely not only lower price, it will improve service.

Astroscale to deorbit OneWeb satellites, funded by the European Space Agency

Capitalism in space: Astroscale has obtained OneWeb as a major customer for its system to safely deorbit its defunct satellites, with the work partly funded by the European Space Agency (ESA). From the ESA press release:

There are currently two options for removing end-of-life OneWeb satellites from their orbits at the end of their predicted five to six years of service. Each has been allocated enough fuel to be able to actively deorbit at the end of its useful lifetime. But, in case of failure, each has also been built with either a magnetic or a grappling fixture [designed by Astroscale], so that a servicer spacecraft could collect and actively deorbit the satellite.

The servicer spacecraft that Astroscale will build and test is called “ELSA-M” and is planned for launch in 2024. The servicer spacecraft will be the first “space sweeper” capable of removing multiple defunct satellites from their orbits in a single mission.

Following this demonstration, Astroscale will offer a commercial service for clients that operate satellite constellations in low Earth orbit, providing the technology and capability to make in-orbit servicing part of routine satellite operations by 2030.

Apparently, the ESA will pay Astroscale a little less than $16 million to install its grappling fixture on OneWeb’s satellites as well as build and fly the test ELSA-M mission. Once that flight proves the technology by removing several satellites, OneWeb will be expected to pay for Astroscale’s services, as will any other satellite customers.

This deal gives Astroscale a significant leg up on any other junk removal companies, as it getting its grappling fixture in space on many satellites. If that fixture should become standard, it will allow Astroscale to become the dominate satellite junk removal company, at least for the near future.

Astronomers: Shut down satellite companies so we don’t have to adapt!

The Hubble Space Telescope
Space-based astronomy, a concept apparently alien to astronomers

In an article published today in Nature, the astronomy community continued its crybaby complaining of the last three years about the interference posed to their ground-based telescopes by the tens of thousands of small satellites scheduled for launch in the next few years.

These quotes typify the apparent attitude of astronomers:

“This is an unsustainable trajectory,” says Meredith Rawls, an astronomer at the University of Washington in Seattle. “At the moment, our science is fine. But at what point will we miss a discovery?”

…“It’s really quite horrifying,” says Samantha Lawler, an astronomer at the University of Regina in Canada.

…The growing threat of satellite constellations adds to other degradations of the night sky such as light pollution, says Karlie Noon, a PhD candidate in astronomy and an Indigeneous research associate at Australian National University in Canberra. “In the same way that our lands were colonized, our skies are now being colonized,” she says. “And this isn’t just Indigenous people.” She points out that companies have launched satellites without necessarily consulting the scientific community. [emphasis mine]

Oh the horror. Scientists weren’t consulted! The nerve of these companies!

In response, astronomers have decided their only solution is to enlist the UN to shut down these satellite companies.
» Read more

OneWeb signs deal to launch additional satellites using India’s GSLV rocket

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.

From the company’s press release:

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.

OneWeb signs deal with SpaceX to launch its remaining satellites, replacing Russia

Capitalism in space: Just 18 days after its contract with Arianespace was suspended because of Russia invasion of the Ukraine, OneWeb has now signed a deal with SpaceX to use its Falcon 9 rocket to launch the remaining 200+ satellites in its satellite constellation.

Few details about the agreement were released Monday morning. “Terms of the agreement with SpaceX are confidential,” OneWeb said in a statement.

OneWeb said the “first launch” with SpaceX is expected before the end of this year, suggesting the company anticipates multiple flights on SpaceX rockets.

It appears that launches could start before the end of this year

There are two big losers in this story. The obvious one is Russia, as it has lost OneWeb as a satellite customer. The second, less obvious, is Arianespace, as it appears it has also lost OneWeb as a customer. It will also have to refund OneWeb any payments the satellite company made for launches that have not occurred, even those that Arianespace had paid Russia for which Russia is refusing to refund.

Though no details have been released about the deal, I would not be surprised if OneWeb got a better price than what it was paying Arianespace. I also suspect that Elon Musk was willing to make this deal with OneWeb, the prime competitor to his Starlink satellite constellation, because he favors the Ukraine in this war.

Finally, this deal will not only make Russia look bad, it will make SpaceX look magnificent. Its PR value cannot be measured for the company.

OneWeb and Arianespace scramble to find a rocket to launch satellites

Capitalism in space: With the cancellation of the last six Soyuz-2 launches for OneWeb and Arianespace due to Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, the two companies are struggling to find an alternative rocket to launch the remaining 216 satellites that would complete OneWeb’s satellite constellation.

OneWeb has already paid Arianespace for the launches, so the responsibility to get the satellites in orbit is at present Arianespace’s. The problem is that its flight manifest for both the Ariane-5 (being retired) and the new Ariane-6 rocket are presently full.

Going to another rocket provider is problematic, even if a deal could be negotiated. The flight manifest for ULA’s Atlas-5 and Vulcan rockets is also filled. Though SpaceX’s Falcon 9 could probably launch the satellites, that company’s Starlink satellite constellation is in direct competition with OneWeb, which makes it unlikely the two companies could make a deal.

There have been negotiations with India to use its rockets, but it is unclear at present whether this will work.

One other option is to buy a lot of launches from the smallsat rockets of Rocket Lab, Virgin Orbiter, and Astra. This will likely cost more because more launches will be required, and that would required a complex negotiation between all parties.

Confirmed: Tomorrow’s OneWeb launch on Soyuz-2 rocket cancelled

Russia’s state-run press today confirmed that the launch tomorrow of another 36 OneWeb satellites on a Soyuz-2 rocket from Baikonur has been cancelled.

The decision was announced by Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin.

He also instructed to stop preparations for the launch of British OneWeb communications satellites from three spaceports. “All the launches from all Russian launch pads in Kourou, in Baikonur and at the Vostochny Cosmodrome involving the OneWeb company are to be stopped,” the Roscosmos CEO said.

Rogozin has already said that Russia will not refund OneWeb any money it paid for any of the cancelled launches. Nor will Russia return the OneWeb satellites in Kazakhstan to OneWeb.

Meanwhile, it appears that OneWeb is aggressively searching for new launch alternatives.

“We’re looking at U.S., Japanese and Indian options,” Chris McLaughlin, OneWeb’s chief of government, regulatory affairs and engagement, said March 3. “But in the first instance, we’re pointing to Ariane and saying you still owe us a number of launches.”

This statement implies that OneWeb is trying to get Arianespace to pick up the cost of any launches where Russia has been paid but will not launch. This way OneWeb won’t have to pay twice for the launch. This strategy will only work if the partners in the European Space Agency, which owns Arianespace, decide to cover OneWeb’s losses to Russia, which makes this a political decision.

OneWeb scraps further launches from Russia

OneWeb’s board of directors has voted to cancel all further launches of its satellites from Russia, refusing to meet Russia’s demand that the United Kingdom divest its half share in the company.

On Thursday, OneWeb said the company’s board had voted to suspend all launches from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, where the Russian spaceport operated by Roscosmos is based.

OneWeb didn’t elaborate on the vote. But the UK’s Business and Energy Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, said his government had refused to divest from OneWeb, which received funding from British authorities in 2020 to stave off a bankruptcy. “The UK Government supports OneWeb’s decision,” Kwarteng tweeted on Thursday. “In light of Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, we are reviewing our participation in all further projects involving Russian collaboration,” he added.

OneWeb hasn’t commented on the company’s contingency plans. But it’s almost certainly looking for a new launch partner. Russia’s Roscosmos previously helped OneWeb send up 428 of 648 satellites for its internet system, which is designed to serve enterprise users.

This decision, combined with Russia’s decision to suspend further Soyuz-2 rocket launches from French Guiana, essentially ends Russia’s partnership with Arianespace. It also likely ends for many years Russia’s place in the international launch market. OneWeb and Arianespace were its last remaining international customers, and their business is now gone. Even if the Ukraine War was settled today, I suspect neither would wish to renew their business with Russia.

As for OneWeb, it has a number of options in the growing launch market, with Arianespace’s rockets its most likely choice. Financially, the delay hurts them in two ways: First, they have paid Russia for a number of launches already, and Russia has said it will not refund the money. Thus, those launches will cost twice as much. Second, the delay hurts them in their effort to compete with SpaceX’s Starlink constellation.

Rogozin halts launch of OneWeb satelllites planned for March 5

The head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, today announced that he has halted all launch preparations for the March 5th launch of 36 OneWeb satellites on a Soyuz-2 rocket from Baikonur in Kazakhstan unless he received reassurances by March 4th that they would not be used for military purposes against Russia.

Roskosmos head Dmitry Rogozin announced that the mission would not proceed unless he received assurances by 21:30 Moscow Time on March 4 of non-military use of the satellites. Rogozin also demanded that the British government give up its stake in OneWeb.

I suspect Rogozin’s action here is a response to SpaceX’s delivery of Starlink terminals and the activation of its use for the Ukraine to fight the Russian invasion.

It is now certain that all the planned Soyuz-2 OneWeb launches this year will likely not occur, unless the situation in the Ukraine becomes settled quickly. This means OneWeb will have to scramble to find a new launch provider and pay for the launches a second time, since they have already paid Russia for, according to sources I spoke to last night, the next four Russian launches. It won’t get a refund from Russia, for sure.

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