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A Russian Soyuz rocket has taken no fewer than 36 more satellites from British operator OneWeb into orbit, bringing the company closer to its goal of providing global broadband internet.
Africa Today News, New York gathered that the London-headquartered company is working to complete the construction of a constellation of low earth orbit satellites providing enhanced broadband and other services to countries around the planet.
The UK company currently hopes that its global commercial internet service would be operational by next year, supported by some 650 satellites. With the latest mission, it now has a total of 394 satellites in orbit for the constellation.
The Russian rocket, operated by Europe’s Arianespace, took off at 1310 GMT from the Moscow-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in ex-Soviet Kazakhstan.
‘LIFTOFF!’ Russia’s Roscosmos space agency tweeted after the launch.
OneWeb is competing in the race to provide fast internet for the world’s remote areas via satellites along with tech billionaire Elon Musk and fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos of Amazon.
Arianespace, which has worked with Russia for close to two decades, is under contract to make 16 Soyuz launches between December 2020 and the end of 2022.
The UK is spending $500m (£400m) on a stake in failed satellite firm OneWeb as part of a plan to replace use of the EU’s Galileo sat-nav system.
OneWeb went bankrupt in March while trying to build a spacecraft network to deliver broadband.
The UK is part of a consortium with India’s Bharti Global which won a bidding war for the company.
Matters will be clarified on 10 July, when the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York rules on the sale.
If the Bharti Global-led option goes through, the UK government will own an equity stake of 45% in the new operation.
The UK government sees satellites as a way to meet commitments on the roll-out of super-fast broadband and believes OneWeb’s constellation could also deliver a precise Positioning, Navigation, and Timing service, also known as sat-nav.
The latter has become a political imperative for No 10 since losing membership of Europe’s Galileo satellite-navigation system on departure from the EU in January.
AFRICA TODAY NEWS, NEW YORK