SpaceX, owned by Elon Musk, has launched 40 satellites of British communications network OneWeb into orbit.
From NASA’s Kennedy Space Center or KSC in Florida, Falcon 9 rocket on Thursday evening carried the satellites. The Falcon 9’s first stage separated, and it then returned to Earth to make a landing on a SpaceX pad at the nearby Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, while the rocket’s upper stage continued carrying the OneWeb satellites to orbit.
According to a SpaceX mission description, the Falcon 9 first stage landing was SpaceX’s 145th successful rocket recovery and the fourth launch and landing for this particular booster.
The rocket recently launched one batch of SpaceX’s Starlink internet statellites, Eutelsat’s Hotbird 13F spacecraft, as well as a SpaceX Dragon cargo mission in December 2021 to the International Space Station for NASA.
OneWeb tweeted after the launch, “We have liftoff! Our 40 satellites have left the ground in Florida. Thanks to our colleagues at @SpaceX for a successful lift off.”
The satellites launch is part of OneWeb’s plan to build a 648-satellite broadband constellation in low Earth orbit, somewhat similar to SpaceX’s Starlink satellites.
Of this, more than 460 satellites had already reached orbit mainly by Russian-built Soyuz rockets operated by French company Arianespace.
However, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, OneWeb’s launch plans derailed. Later, OneWeb signed deals with SpaceX and India-based New Space India Limited or NSIL. On October 21, an Indian GSLV Mark III rocket successfully carried 36 OneWeb spacecraft into the orbit.
OneWeb, a SoftBank portfolio company, in October agreed with French satellite operator Eutelsat Communications for a potential full combination. Eutelsat had made an initial investment in OneWeb in April 2021.
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