Tech: Bharti Global UK JV OneWeb not to launch its satellites using Russian rocket

Chennai, March 4 (IANS) The board of the Indo-UK satellite joint venture OneWeb has voted to suspend satellite launches from Baikonur rocket port in Russia.

“The Board of OneWeb has voted to suspend all launches from Baikonur,” the company jointly owned by India’s Bharti Global and the UK government said.

The suspension of launches is one of the after effects of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.

Headquartered in London, OneWeb plans to have a constellation of 650 satellites in low earth orbit to offer communication services.

Till date, the company has launched 428 satellites. The last bunch, 34 satellites, was launched in February 2022 by Arianespace from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana.

The next lot of 36 satellites was to be launched from Baikonur using Russia’s Soyuz rocket.

Earlier, the Russian space agency had said that it is withdrawing its personnel from Kourou space station.

With the European Union (EU) imposing sanctions on Russia a question mark hung over OneWeb’s satellite launch slated for this month.

OneWeb has not responded to IANS questions on the launch and the alternate plans like looking at the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) rockets.

In a tweet Kwasi Kwarteng, UK’s Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “The UK Government supports OneWeb’s decision. In light of Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, we are reviewing our participation in all further projects involving Russian collaboration.”

He had also tweeted: “There’s no negotiation on OneWeb: the UK Government is not selling its share. We are in touch with other shareholders to discuss next steps.”

Earlier the Russian Space Agency had demanded a guarantee from OneWeb that the satellites will not be used for military purposes and also that the UK government divest its holding in the company.

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