SpaceX launched internet satellites for a competitor after, the London-based OneWeb company halted flights with Russia due to the invasion of Ukraine.
The Falcon rocket took off at sunset. It was carrying 40 mini-satellites to polar orbit. They will increase OneWeb’s constellation to just over 500 satellites.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has more than 3,200 Starlink satellites in orbit. These brought high-speed internet to remote parts of the globe. Amazon intends to launch the first of its internet satellites from Cape Canaveral early next year.
The global internet service market is “growing exponentially,” according to OneWeb’s chief technology officer, Massimiliano Ladovaz.
After the British company severed ties with Russia in March, SpaceX agreed to launch satellites for OneWeb. Beginning in 2019, Russian Soyuz rockets launched 13 batches of OneWeb satellites.
In October, India picked up the slack by launching a batch of OneWeb satellites.
There were other launch options. But Ladovaz stated shortly before liftoff that SpaceX and India provided the fastest and best combination.
Two more SpaceX launches and one by India are planned for OneWeb in the coming months. It will bring the company’s orbiting constellation to completion by spring. According to Ladovaz, OneWeb already provides internet service in Alaska, Canada and northern Europe. The newest satellites will extend coverage to the entire United States and Europe, parts of Africa and South America.
The OneWeb satellites are about the size of a washing machine and weigh 330 pounds. They are built at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in collaboration with Airbus of France.