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OneWeb will increase mega-constellation to 74 satellites

LaunchImage copyright ONEWEB
Image caption The Soyuz launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan
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The London-based start-up OneWeb launched one other huge batch of satellites on Saturday.

A Soyuz rocket lifted off from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, carrying 34 extra spacecraft into orbit to proceed the build-up of the agency’s broadband web constellation.

The mission came about regardless of the coronavirus pandemic, which has restricted a lot area exercise elsewhere.

It additionally comes amid rumours the agency could take into account looking for chapter safety.

A report by Bloomberg on Thursday stated OneWeb was analyzing completely different choices it may use to stave off the difficulties of a money crunch.

A spokesperson would not touch upon these rumours, telling BBC News solely that OneWeb was “focused 100% on launch”.

The Soyuz rocket left the Kazakh spaceport proper on schedule at 22:06 native time (17:06 GMT) on Saturday.

Its payload took the present measurement of the start-up’s constellation to 74 satellites. Forty spacecraft have been lofted in two earlier launches.

The accomplished community goals to realize an orbital configuration of roughly 650 satellites, with web entry changing into out there first for some clients at northern latitudes, earlier than finally being provided globally.

OneWeb is in a race with various different corporations that wish to present the identical form of service.

California entrepreneur Elon Musk is creating his Starlink constellation which envisages hundreds of related satellites. Likewise, Jeff Bezos, the boss of Amazon and the world’s wealthiest particular person, has proposed a system he calls Kuiper.

What all of them are attempting to do could be very costly. OneWeb has raised to this point £2.6bn to fund its actions, however will want rather more than this to fulfil all its plans.

It has an enormous contracted launch marketing campaign with European rocket operator Arianespace. Most of its Soyuz flights are presupposed to be carried out from Baikonur, however a quantity are additionally anticipated to be carried out from the brand new Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s far east.

The acknowledged OneWeb plan is to have its accomplished constellation in place by the top of the fourth quarter of 2021.

How achievable that’s given the disruption created by the coronavirus pandemic stays to be seen. The aerospace business, like a lot of the worldwide economic system, is having to implement contingency measures, together with placing restrictions on the motion of kit and personnel.

Arianespace, for instance, has already suspended all launches from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

After Saturday’s launch, OneWeb accentuated the positives. In a press release issued by the start-up, CEO Adrian Steckel stated: “In these unprecedented times following the global outbreak of Covid-19, people around the world find themselves trying to continue their lives and work online. We see the need for OneWeb, greater now more than ever before.

“High-quality connectivity is the lifeline to enabling folks to work, proceed their schooling, keep updated on essential healthcare data and keep meaningfully related to at least one one other. The disaster has demonstrated the crucial want for connectivity all over the place and has uncovered pressing shortcomings in lots of organizations’ connectivity capabilities. Our satellite tv for pc community is poised to fill in lots of of those crucial gaps within the international communications infrastructure.”

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