British satellite internet company OneWeb, which canceled rocket launches with Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, is turning to SpaceX to send broadband satellites into space.
The alliance announced by OneWeb on Monday is unusual because SpaceX is currently OneWeb’s primary competitor in the market for providing high-speed internet to users on the ground from orbit.
However, a tangled dispute with Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, the company’s former launch provider, has prompted OneWeb to work with SpaceX. This orientation is also due to the increasing isolation of Russia’s space industry from its Western partners and sanctions after Moscow started the war with Ukraine.
Neil Masterson, CEO of OneWeb, said in a statement that the new agreement with SpaceX will enable OneWeb to build the constellation of 648 satellites in orbit and provide the internet under a new timeline. And he said, “We thank SpaceX for their support that reflects our shared vision of the potential of unlimited space.”
Average of $62 million per launch
OneWeb did not disclose how many launches it has purchased from SpaceX, which rocket the company will use, or when it now plans to complete the satellite constellation. Costing an average of $62 million per launch, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket stands out as the most active launch vehicle.
OneWeb’s internet project is active in parts of the Northern Hemisphere, but the company will no longer meet its goal of providing full global service in August 2022.
Starlink, SpaceX’s rival internet constellation, which relies on thousands of satellites at a slower speed, is already available to some consumers and has been shipped to Ukraine in recent weeks for help.