Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium today used a Russian-made Soyuz rocket to send 34 satellites into a near-polar orbit for OneWeb’s broadband internet constellation, sharpening a rivalry with SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation.
- The Soyuz lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 2:42 a.m. Feb. 7 (1:42 p.m. PT Feb. 6) and successfully deployed the dishwasher-sized satellites over the course of three hours and 45 minutes. This was the second OneWeb mission, following up on last year’s inaugural launch of six satellites.
- Like SpaceX, the London-based OneWeb consortium aims to provide broadband internet services via satellite for billions of people around the world who are currently underserved. And like SpaceX, OneWeb aims to begin limited service later this year, although OneWeb intends to start with the Arctic while SpaceX’s first target market is expected to be in the middle latitudes, including the “Lower 48” states.
- SpaceX’s Starlink satellites have generated controversy because of their potential for interfering with astronomical observations. OneWeb’s satellites will be in higher orbits, which suggests they won’t be as bright, but there are added concerns about potential radio interference. The prospect of dueling constellations (with Amazon’s Project Kuiper joining the fray in future years) also has fueled worries about space traffic management.