OneWeb is a space-based internet company owned by the British government and an Indian-British company since July 2020.
Originally named WorldVu, the first six test OneWebs of a then-planned 1,240 satellite constellation were launched from South America in February 2019 on a Russian Soyuz rocket purchased by Europe's Arianespace launch services corporation.
After the first mission, operational OneWeb satellites began launching in batches of 34 or 36 on Soyuz rockets provided by Arianespace and Starsem, the part of Roscosmos (the Russian space agency) that handles commercial flights of the Soyuz.
All of those Arianespace-Starsem missions have launched either from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan or the Vostochny Cosmodrome in eastern Russia.
In May 2020, while in bankruptcy and before its purchase by the British government, OneWeb asked the Federal Communications Commission in the United States (a controlling authority for OneWeb) to increase the number of satellites in the constellation from 1,240 to 47,844.
In January 2021, OneWeb amended the request down to just 6,372 satellites for the constellation.
The entire OneWeb network will operate in a 1,200 km orbit and will provide global internet service. However, the British government has been quick to limit access to the service.
Picture: OneWeb satellites ready for launch in early 2020. Credit: OneWeb
Meet part of Roscosmos’s 21st century version of the Soyuz rocket.
One of the main upgrades included in the Soyuz 2.1b is a completely digital flight control system -- not a small task when the Soyuz rocket was first designed in the 1960s.
This digital Flight Control System allows for greater precision and launch target accuracy.
The Soyuz 2.1b also sports an uprated Blok-I second stage engine, the RD-0124, which provides increased performance.
It was the second of three Soyuz 2 variants to fly, taking its first launch on December 27th, 2006.
The Soyuz 2.1b variant flies under two different national flags and has two different names for the same configuration.
When launching from Baikonur or Plesetsk, the rocket flies as part of the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos. For these missions, it is known as the Soyuz 2.1b.
When sold to Arianespace, the European Space Agency's launch management company, the rocket sports a few European modifications, like a European payload adapter and a European flight termination system.
When it flies for Europe, the rocket is known as the Soyuz ST-B.
Site 31/6 has been an active launch pad since January 14th, 1961. It has been used to launch R-7A, Vostok, Voskhod, Polyot, Molniya, and previous versions of Soyuz rockets.
It is currently used exclusively to launch the Soyuz 2 rockets.
A workhorse pad for satellite and robotic missions, it took up crew launch duties for Russian missions to the Station beginning in April 2020.
Located in southern Kazakhstan, Baikonur was the world's first spaceport and the launch site for humanity's first orbital satellite, Sputnik, and Yuri Gagarin's first human spaceflight on April 12th, 1961.
Originally built as the Soviet Union's launch base, the collapse of the Union led to the Kazakh government leasing Baikonur to Russia until 2050.
The spaceport is operated both by Roscosmos, the federal space agency of the Russian Federation, and the Russian Aerospace Forces, a branch of the Russian Armed Forces.
Image: GK Launch Services / Roscosmos