MOSCOW (Reuters) – OneWeb, the satellite firm rescued by the British government and India’s Bharti Group, resumed flights on Friday in its push to provide global broadband coverage as 36 of its satellites blasted off into orbit from Russia’s Far East.
The launch carried out by Arianespace and its Starsem affiliate was the first fully commercial flight from Russia’s new Vostochny cosmodrome, Russia’s Roscosmos space corporation said.
“The Soyuz-2.1b launch vehicle together with a Fregat booster and 36 @OneWeb communication satellites lifted off from the #Vostochny cosmodrome,” it tweeted.
The launch will expand OneWeb’s number of in-orbit satellites to 110, part of a low earth orbit fleet of 648 designed to establish a high-speed, low-latency global connectivity, the satellite operator said.
The launch should put it on track to offer commercial services in Britain, Alaska, Northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland, the Artic Seas and Canada in 2021, it added in a statement ahead of the launch.
OneWeb said last month it had emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with $1 billion in equity investment from a consortium of the UK government and India’s Bharti Enterprises, the new owners of the UK-based company.
OneWeb, founded in 2014 by entrepreneur Greg Wyler, planned to launch 650 satellites into low earth orbit to provide universal internet but became locked in a constant struggle to raise funds.
(Reporting by Tom Balmforth; editing by Mark Potter)