Russia Holds OneWeb Satellites Hostage; No Launch Unless Company & British Government Meet Demands

Vladimir Putin receives a briefing from Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: Office of the Russian President)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In what is likely the first hostage drama involving communication satellites, the head of the Russian space program has demanded that the British government divest its shares in OneWeb and that the broadband satellite operator not provide services to foreign militaries in order to launch a new batch of spacecraft. The move comes amid growing tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and sanctions imposed on the country by western nations.

Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin tweeted that unless these demands are met, Russia will refuse to launch 36 OneWeb satellites that sit atop a Soyuz-2.1b rocket currently on the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The launch is scheduled for Saturday morning Moscow time.

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Russia Launches EKS 5 Early Warning Satellite

PLESETSK COSMODROME, Russia, 25 November 2021 (Ministry of Defence PR) — Launched today at 4:9 a.m. (Moscow time) from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in the Arkhangelsk region, the Soyuz-2.1B medium-class launch vehicle successfully put the spacecraft into orbit at the set time in the interests of the Russian Defence Ministry.

All pre-launch operations and the launch of the Soyuz-2.1B space rocket (SR) took place in normal mode. The means of the ground-based automated control complex for spacecraft of the Russian orbital group controlled the launch and flight of the SR.

The ground-based means of the space forces of the Aerospace Forces took control of the spacecraft launched in the interests of the Russian Ministry of Defence. Stable telemetry communication has been established and maintained with the device, its onboard systems are functioning normally.

After taking control of the spacecraft, the serial number Cosmos-2552 was assigned.

In total, more than 40 ground-based measuring devices and more than 70 combat crews of the 15th army of the Aerospace Forces of special purpose were involved in ensuring the launch of the spacecraft of the Russian Ministry of Defence.

Prichal Node Module Launched to International Space Station

BAIKONUR COSMODROME, Kazakhstan (Roscosmos PR) — On Wednesday, November 24, 2021, at 13:06:35 UTC, the Soyuz-2.1b launch vehicle with the Prichal Node Module within the Progress M-UM cargo spacecraft-module was successfully launched from Site 31 of the Baikonur Cosmodrome. 563 seconds into the flight, it separated from the third stage of the carrier and deployed its solar panels and antennas.

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Soyuz-2.1b Launch Vehicle with 34 OneWeb Satellites Installed on Launch Pad at Baikonur

Soyuz rocket with OneWeb satellites aboard. (Credit: Yuzhny/Roscosmos)

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (Roscosmos PR) — The Soyuz-2.1b launch vehicle with the Fregat upper stage and 34 OneWeb communications satellites was rolled out from the Assembly and Test Facility on Monday. The launch vehicle was installed on the launch pad of the Baikonur Сosmodrome, the launch is scheduled for Thursday, August 19, at 22:23 UTC.

Pre-launch activities are carried out under the contracts of Glavkosmos (a subsidiary of Roscosmos) with the European launch services provider Arianespace (the company operates launches of OneWeb spacecraft with the use of the Soyuz launch vehicle), and the company Starsem. The joint team of the foreign customers and the representatives of Roscosmos enterprises: Progress Space Rocket Center, Lavochkin Association, TsENKI and Glavkosmos, is carrying out these works.

Currently, the specialists at the spaceport are performing the technical operations. The pre-launch tests of the Soyuz-2.1b systems are being conducted, and the interfaces between the on-board instruments and ground equipment are being checked.

Now, the fleet of the OneWeb satellites in the low Earth orbit amounts to 254 spacecraft, and hundreds more are to be launched. The upcoming launch should bring the number of OneWeb spacecraft in orbit to 288. OneWeb low Earth orbit satellites are designed to provide consumers on the ground with high-speed Internet.

Russia Launches Arktika-M Meteorological Satellite to Monitor the Arctic

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — This morning, February 28, 2021 at 09:55:01 Moscow time, a successful launch of the Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket with the Fregat upper stage and the Arktika-M spacecraft took place from the launch pad No. 31 of the Baikonur cosmodrome No. 1 on board. After 562 seconds, according to the processed telemetry information, the upper stage and payload separated from the third stage of the carrier in the normal mode.

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Russia Prepares to Launch OneWeb Satellites From its Spaceport of the Future

OneWeb satellites being prepared for launch aboard a Soyuz-2.1b booster from the Vostochny Cosmodrome. (Credit: Roscosmos)

Russia is preparing for launch number six from the troubled and little used Vostochny Cosmodrome in the nation’s Far East.

A Soyuz-2.1b rocket is set to launch 36 OneWeb satellites on Dec. 18. The new batch of satellites will add to the 74 OneWeb spacecraft previously launched.

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