The deployment of the British megaconstellation, whose mission is to provide global Internet, will accelerate after this first grouped launch of 34 satellites.
During the night of February 6 to 7, a Soyuz-2.1b / Fregat M launcher operated by Arianespace from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan deployed, at an altitude of 450 km, 34 satellites of the British megaconstellation OneWeb.
This launch occurs a year after the launch, from the Guiana Space Center, of the first six satellites of the constellation, which were used to calibrate the system whose objective is to give everyone access to Internet, all around the world.
This megaconstellation will first consist of 648 satellites operating in 1,200 km high polar orbits, and will include 60 spare satellites.
Based on the all-electric Arrow platform (150 kg class), the satellites are now mass produced at Merritt Island, Florida, in OneWeb Satellite’s factory, a joint venture founded in 2015 by OneWeb and Airbus Defense and Space.
Back to Baikonur.
Flight ST27 was the 50th mission of a Soyuz launcher operated by Arianespace and its subsidiary Starsem since February 1999 (launches from Kazakhstan and Guyana combined). It was the 27th mission from Baikonur, but the first since February 2003.
There are 20 OneWeb missions left in Arianespace's order book (excluding options), spread between the Baikonur, Vostotchny (southeast of Siberia) and Sinamary (northwest of Kourou) sites. Nineteen of them are planned on Soyuz — mainly in 2020-2021 — and one on the inaugural flight of the future European heavy launcher — Ariane 6 (A62 version, with two boosters) — announced for the end of the year.