Satellite operator OneWeb suspends Baikonur launches

By: AFP
Published: 06:44 PM, 3 Mar, 2022
Satellite operator OneWeb suspends Baikonur launches
Caption: Satellite operator OneWeb suspends Baikonur launches.
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Global satellite communications company OneWeb announced on Thursday that its board had voted to suspend all launches from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Russia's space agency Roscosmos has sought guarantees from OneWeb and Europe's Arianespace that satellites it plans to launch this year will not be used for military purposes.

It also demanded the UK government give up its stake in OneWeb because of what it said was London's "hostile position on Russia".

But UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng late Wednesday said the government was not selling its share and on Thursday welcomed the company's suspension of launches.

"The UK Government supports OneWeb's decision," he wrote on Twitter.

"In light of Russia's illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, we are reviewing our participation in all further projects involving Russian collaboration."

Roscosmos imposed a deadline for 1830 GMT on Friday for OneWeb to provide "exhaustive legally binding guarantees". 

Otherwise, it added, a planned launch of a Soyuz with 36 satellites on Saturday would be cancelled.

OneWeb has been working to complete the construction of a constellation of low earth orbit satellites to provide enhanced broadband and other services around the globe.

The company is aiming for its global commercial internet service to be operational by next year, supported by some 650 satellites.

A Soyuz rocket, operated by Arianespace, blasted 24 satellites into space for OneWeb on February 10 from the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana.

Arianespace has worked with Russia for nearly two decades, and is under contract to make 16 Soyuz launches between December 2020 and the end of this year.

On February 26, Russia suspended space launches from French Guiana and withdrew technical personnel in response to EU sanctions over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

AFP

Agence France-Presse is an international news agency.