SpaceX launched satellites for its competitor Thursday after London-based OneWeb grounded flights to Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.
The Falcon rocket lifted off at sunset with 40 mini-satellites bound for polar orbit. With them, the OneWeb constellation will expand to over 500 satellites, almost 80% of the planned total of about 630.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has more than 3,200 Starlink satellites in orbit, providing high-speed, broadband internet to remote parts of the world.
Amazon plans to launch the first of its internet satellites early next year from Cape Canaveral.
With a market for global internet services “growing exponentially,” there is room for everyone, said Massimiliano Ladovaz, OneWeb’s chief technology officer.
SpaceX agreed to launch satellites for OneWeb after the British company severed ties with Russia in March. Russian Soyuz rockets had already launched 13 series of OneWeb satellites since 2019.
India took over in October, sending up a series of OneWeb satellites. Although other launch options existed, SpaceX and India offered the fastest and most optimal combination, Ladovaz said shortly before liftoff.
OneWeb is planning two more launches from SpaceX and one more from India in the coming months to complete the company’s constellation before spring.
OneWeb already provides internet services in Alaska, Canada and Northern Europe; the new satellites will increase the range to the entire United States and all of Europe, as well as much of Africa and South America, and elsewhere, Ladovaz says.
The OneWeb satellites, each the size of a washing machine and weighing 150 kilograms (330 pounds), are being built at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center through a joint venture with Airbus of France.
Rachel Maga is a technology journalist currently working at Globe Live Media agency. She has been in the Technology Journalism field for over 5 years now. Her life’s biggest milestone is the inside tour of Tesla Industries, which was gifted to her by the legend Elon Musk himself.