Russia holds OneWeb missile launch hostage, issues conditional demands

In its latest response to international sanctions and rising geopolitical tensions, Russia’s state space company, Roscosmos, is submitting a list of its client OneWeb demands before agreeing to launch the company’s next mission this week. OneWeb satellites were scheduled to take off on a Russian Soyuz rocket on March 5 in Kazakhstan, but in light of these new demands, it seems likely that the launch will not take place.

In a video posted on TwitterThe head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, explained in an interview that he wants assurances from OneWeb that the company’s satellites will not be used for military purposes. Roscosmos has also demanded that the British government, which is the main shareholder of OneWeb, divest its stake in the company. If these demands are not met, Roscosmos says it will roll back the Soyuz rocket, and the launch will not go as planned.

OneWeb has launched its satellites exclusively on a Russian Soyuz rocket over the past few years, either from French Guiana or Kazakhstan. OneWeb is building a huge massive constellation Low Earth Orbit satellites to provide Internet coverage from space, Similar to SpaceX’s Starlink system. The company was launching its satellites in batches of 34 and 36 simultaneously. This week’s launch was supposed to carry 36 new satellites into orbit to embody the constellation.

OneWeb has yet to provide a response to requests, and the company has not responded to a request for comment from the edge In time to post.

It seems impossible to comply with the British government’s demand for divestment, largely ensuring that the launch will not happen. The British government becomes a major contributor to OneWeb in 2020 When I invested nearly $500 million To help save the company from bankruptcy. The British government was also under separate pressure to cancel this launch in light of the Russian invasion, According to the BBC.

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Roscosmos claims that delaying the launch “will not cause economic damage” because the missile has already been built and paid for. According to the Russian state press organization TASS. The OneWeb satellites will also remain at the launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan “until the situation is resolved,” the space organization claims. Roscosmos says that if this rocket is not used to launch OneWeb satellites, it will be used for another flight. In the meantime, OneWeb’s future working relationship with Roscosmos appears to be in jeopardy.

“There are no other satellite vehicles orbiting the OneWeb orbital cluster in the near term,” TASS wrote. “The Russian side is ready to fulfill its obligations, given that the foreign client provides legal guarantees,” the statement said. OneWeb planned to launch an initial constellation of 648 satellites and had a few launches planned in 2022 to flesh out the system. It has succeeded in launching 428 satellites so far.

To really underscore how deteriorating Russia’s relations with other countries are, Rogozin posted a video on Twitter showing personnel in Baikonur covering the flags of the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom drawn on the bottom of a Soyuz carrier rocket. OneWeb satellite. Rogozin claimed They “decided that without the flags of some countries, our missile would look nicer.”

Conditional launch is another way Russia’s invasion of Ukraine indirectly affects space partnerships. Because of European sanctions on Russia in response to the invasion, Roscosmos announced that it was The launch of its rockets from the main European spaceport in French Guiana has been suspended And remove the Russian soldiers from the area. The European Space Agency also announced its joint Mars rover with Russia It probably won’t be released this year as plannedIn light of the events taking place on the ground.

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Update March 2, 10:50AM ET: This article has been updated to include a new tweet from Dmitry Rogozin.

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