Want an all-expense paid trip to Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakstan? If you are a select member of the aerospace press or have enough social media followers on Twitter, you have received an invitation from OneWeb to witness the scheduled kickoff launch of 30 plus satellites in its constellation on December 19, the start of a monthly campaign to put 650 satellites into orbit for its global broadband service.
Planning and executing this trip is expensive and asks a serious commitment from attendees. Travel to Moscow from the East Coast of the United States is a 9.5 hour non-stop flight (IAD, Aeroflot), with other options taking 11.5 or more hours for connecting flights in Europe. Under the best scenario, travelers would arrive in Moscow at 5 pm local time on Tuesday, December 17 and then board an ArianeSpace charter flight to Baikonur the following day. If all goes according to plan, the Soyuz rocket would launch on the morning of December 19, followed by a museum tour and charter flight back to Moscow to catch a flight back to the States for a return late on December 20.
Space IT Bridge has not been able to determine the number of invitations sent to social media influencers, but the implications of a “charter flight” implies more than a handful of Twitter-ites. OneWeb’s media push around its December launch will no doubt emphasize the underlying logistical efforts to build and place 650 satellites into orbit. ArianeSpace has a contract to provide up to 21 Soyuz launches for OneWeb, plus some additional launches after 2021 using the forthcoming Ariane 6 launcher.
Filling the charter may prove to be challenging given the time commitment of five business days for U.S.-based media, with a full day of travel spent onboard aircraft flying between Europe and the States.