The company was preparing to launch 36 satellites with a Soyuz missile, but Dmitry Rogozin demanded that they not be used for military purposes or that the government dispose of its share.
British government-owned satellite internet provider OneWeb said it would suspend all launches from the Russian-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome. The company had planned to launch 36 satellites with a Soyuz space rocket from a space base in Kazakhstan, but the invasion of Ukraine was hampering the operation.
On Wednesday, when workers placed the spacecraft under the launch pad, under the fore cone where 36 OneWeb satellites were hidden, the launch appeared to be turning green, but the head of Russia’s Roshosmos, Dmitriy Rogozin, came forward with conditions before allowing the flight.
He wanted assurances that the OneWeb system would not be used for military purposes, an impossible request given that British and US forces often rely on the Internet. Rogozin then called on the “hostile” UK government to sell its stake in the company, but Kwasi Kwarting, Secretary of State for Business, refused.
West London-based OneWeb is now working with France’s Arianaspace, which is planning to launch Soyuz, to find an alternative to the satellite launch, but this is a challenging task because there are few vehicles available in the category required by the company.
OneWeb currently has 428 devices in orbit, which is enough to provide internet above 50 degrees north latitude, including the UK, but approximately 650 satellites would be needed to reach global service.
The question arises of what will happen to the 36 satellites still owned by OneWeb, since the company does not have an employee in Baikonur to arrange their removal – even if Russia is going to send them back. Rogozin has already stated that the money he received for the Soyuz missile will be kept, which means that “due to force majeure conditions arising from the aggressive policy of the West and sanctions against Russia, these funds will remain in Russia.”
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