Beginning of July ’21 with OneWeb. Competitor SpaceX is keeping pace with the construction of the super constellation

Despite last year’s serious financial problems, the British satellite company OneWeb continues to chase SpaceX in building its own telecommunications superconstellation, maintaining a monthly launch interval. Another such successful flight was carried out at the beginning of July this year. with the involvement of Arianespace and Roscosmos, placing the eighth set of 36 identical satellites in polar orbit. Thus, the current phase of building the constellation core has been completed in 40 percent – if the pace is maintained, the first customers in northern Europe, Russia and North America will be able to use the services of this supplier by early 2022.

The latest launch took place on 1 July this year, using the Soyuz 2.1b carrier rocket with the upper stage Fregat, at 21:48 local time (14:48 Polish time – CEST) from the 1S launch stand of the Vostochny cosmodrome, located far east on the Russian border -chinese. The flight bore the Russian designation ST33 and was the fifth commercial launch from this spaceport.

The mission went smoothly, anyway. The miniature satellites of the OneWeb constellation were released in fours, approximately every 20 minutes. Between these separations, the upper Fregate started its ACS motor for a few seconds, modifying the parameters of its orbit at the same time. In total, there were nine such segmental disconnections at an altitude of approximately 450 kilometers. The last separation took place at 3 hours and 51 minutes, ending the placement of all copies. Ultimately, the satellites will go a little higher using an electric ion drive, at an altitude of 1200 kilometers.

At the very end of the mission, after the entire load had been lifted, the fourth stage Frigate started the ACS engine for the last time in order to brake and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere to deorbit.

Together with the latest delivery, 254 OneWeb satellites have been deployed so far, of which 6 were taken for testing purposes at the very beginning of the program. In the first phase of construction, the OneWeb network will consist of 648 satellites, while in the second phase, 6372 objects are planned to orbit, although the company had assumed a super-constellation of 48,000 objects before the serious crisis.

As the company emphasizes, intensive work is underway to launch a global Internet supply already at the beginning of 2022. Interestingly, according to the announcements, the test campaign will begin this summer, which will take place in the UK, Canada and the Arctic region. Most likely, over the next six months, local residents will be able to take full advantage of the OneWeb constellation, ahead of its main competitor – SpaceX with the emerging Starlink super-constellation – in providing satellite Internet access to countries in the north.


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