OneWeb, a London-based satellite startup striving for global Internet connectivity and a major competitor to Elon Musk’s satellite internet constellation StarLink, rejected Russian demands to sever ties with the UK government on Thursday.
The company is set to launch a constellation of 36 Internet satellites on Friday as part of its plan for a constellation of 648 satellites. But the Russian space agency Roscosmos appears
eD set to block the effort on Wednesday.
The Russian-made Soyuz rocket operated by France’s Arianespace SA was intended to deliver satellites into low Earth orbit, launching them from the Russian-owned Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. OneWeb and Russia signed a multi-year satellite launch agreement, with the company launching its satellites exclusively on a Russian Soyuz rocket.
But Dmitriy Rogozin, director general of Roscosmos and a former deputy prime minister with inflammatory rhetoric, refuses to move forward with what should be a routine launch in response to the UK’s sanctions on Russia in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine.
“The OneWeb board of directors has voted to suspend all launches from Baikonur,” the British company said in a statement on Thursday.
Rogozin has tweeted inflammatory comments in the past in response to Western sanctions – specifically in 2014 after Russia’s annexation of Crimea. “After analyzing the sanctions imposed on our space industry, I propose to the United States to bring astronauts to the International Space Station using a trampoline,” Rogozin said at the time. On Twitter after US sanctions against the Russian space sector.