OneWeb has largely given up trying to recover satellites worth $50 million in a dispute related to the Ukrainian crisis, the satellite operator’s chief executive said this week. OneWeb is nearing completion of its internet-from-space network.
On March 26, the company will launch the last group of satellites from India to complete its global network, and it hopes to soon start providing global service to new business and government clients.
The business, which was supported by the British government, postponed the launch of 36 broadband satellites on board a Russian Soyuz rocket in March of last year after the Russian space chief suspended the operation following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
At the time, Dmitry Rogozin stated that his organization needed guarantees from OneWeb that its satellites wouldn’t be used against Russia. The invasion-related Western sanctions have hurt Moscow’s space industry, and Rogozin has also demanded that Britain sell its OneWeb shares.
OneWeb declined and postponed all of its upcoming Soyuz launches. Nevertheless, it has been unable to get the satellites back from their Soyuz launch location at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, which is held by Russia. OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson estimated the satellites’ total value at $50 million on Tuesday.
OneWeb’s ambition to build an initial constellation of 588 satellites to provide global broadband coverage was temporarily hampered by the conflict, necessitating swift negotiation of new rocket contracts with the Indian Space Research Organization.
OneWeb, which manufactures at least two satellites per day, had another batch of 36 satellites ready for launch soon after cancelling Soyuz, Masterson said. “The bigger issue for us was not so much the satellites, it was securing the launches,” he said.
According to Masterson, even if Russia were to reverse-engineer the satellites, there would be no threat to the corporation due to its enormous supply chain, spectrum access, and other satellite network underpinnings.
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