Roscosmos Withdraws from UK's OneWeb Satellite Project, Launch Vehicles to be Diverted to Other Customers

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  • 08:02 AM, March 22, 2022
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Roscosmos Withdraws from UK's OneWeb Satellite Project, Launch Vehicles to be Diverted to Other Customers
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Russian space agency Roscosmos will use six Soyuz launch vehicles built for Britain’s OneWeb project for other customers.

"Roscosmos is withdrawing from the OneWeb project six launch vehicles paid for by a foreign customer. They will be used by Roscosmos to provide launches under the federal program, as well as in the interests of other customers," Dmitry Strugovets, head of Roscosmos, said.

The development comes after OneWeb entered into an agreement with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to resume satellite launches. The first launch with SpaceX is anticipated in 2022 and will add to OneWeb’s total in-orbit constellation that currently stands at 428 satellites, or 66% of the fleet.

On March 4, Roscosmos canceled the launch of British OneWeb satellites abroad the Soyuz-2.1b rocket in what appeared to be payback for Britain and its NATO allies sanctioning Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

Under the OneWeb project, the Soyuz rocket would have carried 36 satellites from various countries to provide broadband Internet connectivity. It aims to launch 648 satellites into orbit, and 428 of them already have been launched, all of them using the Soyuz vehicle. Bharti Airtel group and the UK government are the owners of the project.

Roscosmos demanded two conditions to continue with the launch- legal guarantees that OneWeb will not use satellites for military purposes and the withdrawal of the UK government from its shareholders. Apparently, these conditions were not met which led to the cancellation.

Russia has also said that the sanctions by the U.S. and European nations – imposed for its invasion of Ukraine – could result in a crash of the International Space Station (ISS).

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