On Thursday, a Soyuz rocket exploded from Russia’s Vostochen spaceport in the Far East, transporting 36 British telecommunications and Internet satellites, the Roscosmos space agency reported.
OneWeb, a London-based company, is working to complete the construction of a constellation of low-orbit satellites that provide enhanced broadband and other services to countries around the world.
The company is competing in the race to provide high-speed Internet for remote areas of the world via satellites, along with the technology billionaire Elon Musk and a fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos on Amazon.
???? Launch of the Soyuz-2.1b launch vehicle with the upper stage of the Fregat and 36 spacecraft #OneWeb
???? March 25, 2021
???? Eastern Spaceport
View from the height of the quadcopter ???? pic.twitter.com/2fvvbfButg
– ROSCOSMOS (@roscosmos) March 25, 2021
Roscosmos said in a statement that the launch and separation “took place normally.”
“We can confirm that our sixth split is complete. More than half of our satellites have already been released!” OneWeb wrote on Twitter.
The British company plans to launch its global commercial internet service by next year, supported by about 650 satellites.
The first six OneWeb satellites were launched by a Russian Soyuz rocket from the Kourou space center in French Guiana in February 2019.
Last year, the company launched another 68 from the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan and another 36 from the Vostochen spaceport in December.
The Vostochen launch site is one of Russia’s most important space projects, designed to reduce dependence on the Baikonur space center, which Moscow is currently renting from Kazakhstan.
Its construction has been tainted by years of controversy, including corruption, and the project is constantly behind schedule.
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