OneWeb’s constellation passes halfway point with recent launch

Early Thursday morning, Arianespace launched Russia’s Soyuz rocket carrying 36 OneWeb satellites. This launch brought OneWeb’s constellation over the halfway point to completion.

The Russian-built Soyuz Fregat rocket launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome at 5:40 a.m. The payload, built by OneWeb Satellites in Titusville, Florida, was 36 more satellites for OneWeb’s internet constellation currently under construction.

This constellation is similar to SpaceX’s Starlink internet constellation, but OneWeb has gone for a higher orbit. This difference will increase the latency slightly but reduce the number of satellites needed to operate. In total, OneWeb will need 648 satellites to complete its orbital shell. Including the 36 launched this morning, the company has launched 358, passing the halfway point.

“Congratulations to all the teams who made this eleventh launch dedicated to OneWeb’s satellites a success. ST36 marks a new milestone in our common history. Precisely one hour and eighteen minutes after liftoff, during the first separation sequence, we officially crossed the halfway mark for OneWeb’s constellation deployment! By the end of 2022, we will proudly operate eight more Soyuz launches in order to complete full the deployment of the constellation.”

Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace

OneWeb plans to finish the constellation by the end of 2022. While similar to Starlink, OneWeb plans to compete in a different market than SpaceX. For example, selling its services to businesses and governments rather than directly to consumers.

Arianespace uses the Russian-built Soyuz rocket as its medium-lift launcher. It sits between the light-lift Vega rocket and the heavy Ariane 5, which will launch NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope as soon as December.

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