Vostochny space center to carry out first fully commercial launch on Friday
The first fully commercial launch from the Vostochny space center in Russia’s Far East will take place on Friday, when a Soyuz-2.1b rocket with 38 OneWeb satellites will blast off at approximately 15:26 Moscow time.
The Fregat booster and the satellites are expected to separate from the rocket approximately ten minutes after the launch.
The satellites will separate from the booster in nine stages, four spacecraft at a time. The overall mission time is estimated at 3 hours 51 minutes and 40 seconds, the launch’s operator, Arianespace, said.
An An-124-100 transport plane brought OneWeb satellites from the United States to the Far Eastern Russian city of Blagoveshchensk in November. Subsequently, the satellites were transported to the lauch facility by Vostochny space center specialists.
Friday’s launch will be the first and only one from Vostochny this year. OneWeb reported in November that the blastoff was scheduled for December 17. However, Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin later wrote on his Facebook page that it will take place one day later.
France’s Arianspace, which is the customer of Russian launches in the interests of OneWeb, said in September it would launch 16 Soyuz rockets from three space centers (Kourou in French Guiana, Baikonur in Kazakhstan and Vostochny) starting from the end of 2020 till 2022. Between 34 and 36 satellites are to be orbited during one launch.
At the moment, OneWeb has 74 satellites in low stationary orbits and plans to launch hundreds of others. It plans to start providing commercial services in late 2021, first of all to customers in Arctic seas, the United Kingdom, Alaska, northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland and Canada.
The launch from Vostochny was initially scheduled for April. However, the British company had to declare bankruptcy and reorganization in March after failing to raise about $2 billion from a group of investors, including Japan’s SoftBank.
In April, OneWeb asked the British government for a 500-million-pound ($645 million) loan within the framework of a wider $2.2 billion package of financing from private investors. London refused, but in July made a decision to invest into the company to establish control over it. It is expected that the British government and India’s Bharti Global company will spend $500 million dollars each to acquire stakes in OneWeb.