April 25 OneWeb launch (Source: Roscosmos)

OneWeb puts 36 more satellites into orbit

Yesterday, April 25, OneWeb successfully conducted its sixth mission, putting another 36 broadband satellites into orbit. The company has a total of 182 satellites in orbit, with two more launches necessary to start providing polar service by the end of the year.

The launch took place at 6:14 ET on April 25, from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia, using a Soyuz rocket with the launch managed by Arianespace. The 36 satellites were released in 9 batches over a period of nearly four hours.  Signal acquisition from all 36 satellites is confirmed, with the commissioning and raising of the satellites to operational orbit to take place over the next few weeks.

“These are exciting times at OneWeb as we get ever closer to bringing our connectivity services to some of the world’s hardest to reach places,” commented Neil Masterson, OneWeb CEO commented. “With this third successful launch in our ‘5 to 50’ program, we are rapidly building momentum: we are launching more satellites, demonstrating the network and announcing more distribution signings around the globe. We have a world class team and product, and alongside our supportive shareholders, OneWeb continues to work towards bringing connectivity to everyone, everywhere.”

OneWeb plans to launch a total of 648 low earth orbit (LEO) satellites in its first generation constellation to deliver high-speed low-latency global connectivity.  Today’s 182 satellites represent 60 percent of the satellites needed to enable connectivity of all regions north of 50 degrees latitude, with two more of a set of five launches planned to enable the “5 to 50” service by the end of the year. 

Once the “5 to 50” satellites are in their final orbits, services will be available across the United Kingdom, Alaska, Northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland, the Arctic Seas and Canada. As monthly launches continue, global service is expected to be available in 2022.

The April 26 OneWeb press release announcing the successful launch highlighted the company’s ability to provide satellite broadband to aviation. “This is a great milestone for OneWeb as we advance to realise our long-held ambitions for OneWeb Aviation,” said Ben Griffin, OneWeb VP Mobility. “Airline start-ups and established carriers who currently don’t have IFE are exploring options as they build after the pandemic.   The interest we are garnering is remarkable.”

Doug Mohney

Doug Mohney, a principal at Cidera Analytics, has been working and writing about IT and satellite industries for over 20 years. His real world experience including stints at two start-ups, a commercial internet service provider that went public in 1997 for $150 million and a satellite internet broadband company. Follow him on Twitter at DougonTech or contact him at dmohney139 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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