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Vostochny Cosmodrome to Rescue OneWeb

Russia’s contract with OneWeb in jeopardy over disagreements with Kazakhstan


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BAIKONUR/YAKUTSK (Interfax) — The launch of satellites under the contract with OneWeb in 2019 is now in jeopardy because of disagreements with the Kazakh local authorities concerning the drop zone for the rocket first stages, a source at the Baikonur cosmodrome told Interfax on Wednesday.

The first launch of the Soyuz 2.1b rocket with OneWeb satellites from Baikonur was previously postponed and is planned for June 2019, the agency’s interlocutor said, who added:

However, there were disagreements with the Kazakh side in the issue of coordinating the areas of the side blocks of the first stage of the carrier rocket in Dzhangeldi region of the Kostanay region.

According to him, the parties are far from consensus, there is a threat that the June launch of 2019 will not yet receive a permit: “Then the launch may have to be postponed”.

In turn, a source in the administration of Yakutia told Interfax that local authorities have not yet agreed with the Roskosmos state corporation on the decision to open new areas for the fall of detachable rocket parts during launches from the Vostochny space center.

Satellite launches under the contract with OneWeb from the Vostochny launch site are planned in late 2019 — early 2020. “So far, it has not been possible to work out a unified position on this issue, which will suit both sides of the talks. The decision has not been taken yet, negotiations are continuing”, the source said.

Earlier it was reported that in 2018-2020, 21 launches are planned for the OneWeb project, most of the launches are planned from Russian spaceports.

The main contractual integrator of Russian cooperative enterprises in the Soyuz project in the Guiana Space Centre (the Kourou space centre) is the Glavkosmos JSC, providing interaction with Arianespace.

Vostochny Cosmodrome

In a bid to reduce its dependency on the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Russia is planning to increase the number of space launches from its Vostochny Cosmodrome to as many as five in 2018 and eight in 2019.

Last June we learned that the Vostochny spaceport in the Russian Far East will be able to switch to monthly launches no sooner than 2020, if a larger number of assembly and testing facilities is built there. CEO of Russia’s State Space Corporation Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin earlier said in an interview that the corporation planned to switch to monthly launches from the Vostochny cosmodrome instead of making two launches a year as was the case now.

If the intensity of launches from the Vostochny cosmodrome is increased, then some launches could quit the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan. However, Russia will not give up the Baikonur spaceport completely and some launches will remain there, he noted.

The Vostochny spaceport is Russia’s first civil cosmodrome. In April 2016, the first successful launch was carried out from the space centre with the delivery of three satellites into orbit. The Vostochny will ensure Russia’s full access to outer space and reduce its dependence on the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan.

In 2018, a Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket with 11 satellites was launched from the Vostochny spaceport. The next two launches from the Vostochny cosmodrome are planned for October-November 2018. They are intended to deliver Meteor-M No.2-2 and Kanopus-V No. 5 and No. 6 satellites into orbit.


OneWeb Satellites is a joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus, the world’s second largest space company to manufacture low-cost, ultra-high performing satellites at high-volumes. Recently, OneWeb has raised about $1.7 bln for its smallsat constellation. $1 bln came from Softbank.

Prior to OneWeb, in 2007 Greg Wyler founded O3b Networks. O3b raised approximately $1.3 bln to design and build a satellite constellation to provide fibre quality backhaul for telecom operators in the most remote markets around the world. Today there are twelve operational O3b satellites and they each provide over 1 Gbps with only 130 millisecond of latency.

OneWeb’s first-generation satellites will weigh 145 kilograms and will deliver 10 Gigabits per second. They will build 15 satellites per week. The next generation of OneWeb satellite will have 15 times the performance which will be 1 Gigabit per second per kilogram. The smaller size OneWeb satellites means they can launch 9 times as many OneWeb satellites compared to O3b.

They will use many Arianespace Soyuz launches to send up 36 satellites at a time. They also have contracts with Virgin Orbit and Blue Origin when those new rockets are flying.

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