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Russia refuses to launch UK's OneWeb satellites unless demands are met

A Russian Soyuz rocket topped with 36 OneWeb internet satellites is scheduled to launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 4, 2022. But Russia has imposed new demands on OneWeb and the UK government, calling the launch into question.
A Russian Soyuz rocket topped with 36 OneWeb internet satellites is scheduled to launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 4, 2022. But Russia has imposed new demands on OneWeb and the UK government, calling the launch into question. (Image credit: Roscosmos via Twitter)

Update for 8 p.m. ET: OneWeb has called off Friday's launch and ordered its employees at the Baikonur Cosmodrome to return home after Roscosmos gave the company an ultimatum, SpaceNews has reported. You can read their full report here (opens in new tab)


Roscosmos will not launch three dozen OneWeb internet satellites as planned on Friday (March 4) unless the company meets new demands, the Russian space agency announced today (March 2).

This morning, Roscosmos rolled a Soyuz rocket out to the launch pad at the Russia-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan carrying 36 satellites for the London-based company OneWeb. Shortly after the rollout, Roscosmos Director-General Dmitry Rogozin made an online statement (opens in new tab) that the agency will not launch the satellites as planned if the company does not guarantee that the craft will not be used for military purposes. 

And Roscosmos further demanded (opens in new tab) that the United Kingdom government remove its investment in the company as another condition for launch. (The UK government helped buy OneWeb out of bankruptcy in late 2020.)

If these demands are not met by 1:30 p.m. EST (1830 GMT; 9:30 p.m. local time in Moscow) on Friday, Roscosmos will remove the Soyuz-2.1b rocket carrying the satellites from the launch pad.

Related: Satellite photos show 40-mile-long Russian military convoy near Kyiv

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A Friday launch is highly questionable at this point, for the demands are unlikely to be met.

"There's no negotiation on OneWeb: the UK Government is not selling its share. We are in touch with other shareholders to discuss next steps," UK Member of Parliament Kwasi Kwarteng, who serves as Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said via Twitter today (opens in new tab).

The Russian demands come amidst the nation's invasion of Ukraine, an action that has been vehemently condemned by many countries around the world, including the US and UK. Such condemnation has included new economic sanctions, imposed by the US and other nations.

Roscosmos has been cutting ties with some of its long-time partners, citing the sanctions as rationale. For example, Roscosmos announced on Feb. 26 that it will no longer collaborate with the European Space Agency at the European spaceport in French Guiana, on the north coast of South America.

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Chelsea Gohd
Senior Writer

Chelsea “Foxanne” Gohd joined Space.com in 2018 and is now a Senior Writer, writing about everything from climate change to planetary science and human spaceflight in both articles and on-camera in videos. With a degree in Public Health and biological sciences, Chelsea has written and worked for institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine and Live Science. When not writing, editing or filming something space-y, Chelsea "Foxanne" Gohd is writing music and performing as Foxanne, even launching a song to space in 2021 with Inspiration4. You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd and @foxannemusic.