A Soyuz rocket blasted off from the Vostochny cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East on Thursday carrying 36 UK telecommunications and internet satellites, the Roscosmos space agency said.
OneWeb, a London-headquartered company, is working to complete the construction of a constellation of low earth orbit satellites providing enhanced broadband and other services to countries around the world.
The company is competing in the race to provide fast internet for the world’s remote areas via satellites along with tech billionaire Elon Musk and fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos of Amazon.
Images released by Roscosmos showed the Soyuz rocket taking off against clear blue skies Thursday morning at 02:47 GMT.
Roscosmos said in a statement that the launch and separation “took place normally.”
“We can confirm our sixth separation is complete. Over half our satellites have now been released!” OneWeb wrote on Twitter.
The UK company plans for its global commercial internet service to be operational by next year, supported by some 650 satellites.
OneWeb’s first six satellites were launched by a Russian-made Soyuz rocket from the space center in Kourou in French Guiana in February 2019.
The company launched 68 more from the Baikanour launch site in Kazakhstan last year and another 36 from the Vostochny cosmodrome in December.
The Vostochny launch site is one of Russia’s most important space projects, designed to reduce reliance on the Baikonur space centre Moscow currently rents from Kazakhstan.
Its construction has for years been tainted by multiple controversies including corruption, and the project has been consistently behind schedule.
Russia Launches its First Arctic Monitoring Satellite
A Soyuz rocket blasted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sunday carrying Russia’s first satellite for monitoring the Arctic’s climate, the Roscosmos space agency said.
Video published by the Russian space agency showed the Soyuz blaster launching against grey skies at 06:55 GMT, carrying an Arktika-M satellite.
Space agency chief Dmitry Rogozin wrote on Twitter Sunday that the launch was routine.
“The ‘Arktika’ hydrometeorological and climate monitoring space system is designed to monitor the climate and environment in the Arctic region,” Roscosmos said in a statement.
The monitoring system will need at least two satellites to operate properly, the space agency said.
“As part of the system, they will provide round-the-clock all-weather monitoring of the Earth’s surface and the seas of the Arctic Ocean,” it added.
The launch of the second Arktika-M satellite is planned for 2023, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported.
Economic development of the Arctic is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s key goals.
The Arctic holds huge oil and gas reserves that are being eyed by Russia and other countries including the United States, Canada and Norway.
U.K. scientists last month reported ice was disappearing across the world at a rate that matched “worst-case climate warming scenarios”.
The team from the universities of Edinburgh and Leeds and University College London found that some of the largest losses in the last three decades were from Arctic Sea ice.