Bharti-backed OneWeb has said it is in discussion with Arianespace on how its contracted launches will be completed, days after the satellite communications firm decided to suspend all launches from Russia-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
OneWeb – where Bharti Group is the largest shareholder – has further cited ISRO’s “considerable launch experience” along with a Letter of Intent inked in October 2021, and said it will be looking at all available options to bring OneWeb connectivity across the globe.
OneWeb, the low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite communications company, is owned in part by the UK government.
In response to an email query by PTI on how the suspension of all launches from Baikonur will impact the company’s overall plans, OneWeb in a statement said: “We are in discussion with Arianespace (France-headquartered satellite-launch company) concerning how they will complete our contracted launches”.
“Clearly, ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) has considerable launch experience and we have signed a Letter of Intent with them on October 21. We will be looking at all available options to bring OneWeb connectivity across the globe,” it added.
Amid the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict, the board of OneWeb on March 3 voted to suspend all launches from Baikonur after Moscow’s space agency Roscosmos asked for guarantees that the satellites and the technology would not be used for military purposes.
It also demanded that the UK should sell its partial holding in OneWeb, an ultimatum that was flatly rejected by the British government.
As per reports, the Soyuz carrier rocket intended to orbit 36 OneWeb satellites was subsequently removed from the launch pad of the Baikonur spaceport that is run by Russian Aerospace Forces and Russia’s space agency Roscosmos.
Last month, OneWeb had announced the successful deployment of 34 satellites by Arianespace from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana, taking its total in-orbit constellation to 428 satellites.
OneWeb has been eyeing full global coverage in 2022 with a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) constellation of 648 satellites. The initial plans outlined by the company had pegged mid-2022 as the timeline for OneWeb’s services to be available in India.
Rescued from bankruptcy, OneWeb was acquired by the UK Government and Bharti Global in 2020 and has since attracted investments from Eutelsat, SoftBank, Hughes Network Group and Hanwha. PTI