The cancellation of the OneWeb launch came amid rising tensions between Russia and NATO nations.
After Moscow forced the postponement of a rocket launch for British satellite business OneWeb from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at the eleventh hour, the company announced on Monday that it has signed a contract with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to launch its satellites into space. The terms of the agreement with SpaceX, a direct competitor of OneWeb in the booming broadband satellite market, were not revealed.
OneWeb canceled a planned launch of 36 satellites from Baikonur on March 4 and severed connections with Russia’s space agency Roscosmos earlier this month due to last-minute demands from Moscow, including a guarantee that OneWeb’s technology would not be utilized for military reasons.
The cancellation of the OneWeb launch came amid rising tensions between Russia and NATO states, particularly the United Kingdom, over economic sanctions imposed by the West in reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
In light of the Ukraine situation, the British government, which owns a stake in OneWeb, said it was reconsidering its participation in future initiatives with Russia.
The British satellite company plans to launch its first satellite with SpaceX later this year, adding to its existing fleet of 428 satellites in low-Earth orbit.
“We’re on pace to finish building out our full fleet of satellites with these launch plans in place,” OneWeb Chief Executive Officer Neil Masterson said.
In 2020, the British government and Indian telecoms company Bharti Global saved OneWeb from bankruptcy, with the goal of providing universal broadband through a network of 650 satellites. Other investors in the company include Eutelsat Communications and SoftBank Group.
SpaceX’s Starlink, one of the numerous enterprises in the fast-growing satellite broadband market, including Amazon subsidiary Project Kuiper, has launched more than 1,500 satellites, offering internet connectivity to areas that are underserved or difficult to reach for other providers.