An Arianespace Soyuz rocket launched 34 new broadband satellites for the OneWeb constellation to space today (Feb. 10).
In its first mission of 2022, the European launch provider Arianespace launched Soyuz Flight VS27 from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana at 1:09 p.m. EST (3:09 p.m. local time, or 1809 GMT).
"There we have it! Liftoff of OneWeb's launch 13 from Kourou in French Guiana," launch commentator Georgie Barrat said during a live webcast of the mission. "Gosh, this is the moment that you tune in to watch a live rocket launch, isn't it? To see it go from that launch pad and hurtle — and look at it hurtling — into orbit."
"The total duration of the mission will be 3 hours and 33 minutes and will include nine satellite separations, after which the satellites will subsequently raise themselves to their operational orbit," Arianespace said in a statement (opens in new tab).
The new broadband satellites for OneWeb are meant to target sectors including aviation, maritime, backhaul, governments and emergency response services, Arianespace added.
This launch, OneWeb's 13th, is dedicated to making sure the set of satellites do not "harm this new frontier in connectivity for the generations to come, as we develop it for the benefit of everyone," OneWeb said in a statement (opens in new tab) about today's launch.
OneWeb also published a set of practices they aim to follow concerning aspects of what they deem "responsible space (opens in new tab)" management, including aspects such as satellite design and orbital debris. Current or planned satellite constellations such as OneWeb's, including companies like SpaceX and Amazon, often come under criticism for their effects on generating space debris and interfering with astronomical observations.
Recently, the International Astronomical Union launched a new center to fight what they see is a threat of satellite megaconstellations. The constellations, however, also provide benefits to remote areas that have little traditional access to the Internet.
With today's successful launch, OneWeb's constellation now has 428 satellites in space, and the company plans to complete the full 648-satellite constellation this year. The next batch of OneWeb satellites is currently scheduled to lift off March 5 on another Soyuz rocket, this time carrying 36 OneWeb satellites from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.