Since the start of the war in Ukraine, the consequences of this conflict have affected more and more people, who very often have only a very distant connection to Russia. This is the case, for example, of OneWeb, a British company which is currently the main competition for SpaceX and the Starlink project.
Indeed, OneWeb’s project must offer, like SpaceX, a satellite internet solution that covers the entire planet thanks to a mega-constellation of satellites. While the company, which was already in great financial difficulties, had completed several launches from a Soyuz and therefore Russian rocket, the situation in Ukraine made launch impossible.
It was actually the Baikonnour shooting base that took the first step. The latter asked OneWeb to withdraw the British government’s shares from the company’s capital. A request made by the Russian government who feared English “interference” in this file.
OneWeb depends on SpaceX: the fall of a space colossus
Finally, London didn’t budge an inch, and OneWeb is therefore deprived of a launcher. But in today’s space world, there aren’t dozens of companies capable of launching satellites in the low number of orbits that OneWeb wants. The only company capable of doing this is rival SpaceX.
It is therefore reluctantly that the London company’s executives turned to Elon Musk to find a rocket capable of launching the company’s satellites. Good player, SpaceX has decided to agree to launch OneWeb satellites into space, a first launch is scheduled for this year 2022.
This decision shows the progress that SpaceX has in the file of mega-constellations and internet via satellite. Today, only OneWeb seemed to be able to compete with Elon Musk’s company, but the English company’s dependence on the American company clearly shows SpaceX’s hold on this market.
SpaceX far ahead
The rest of the competition, whether with Blue Origin and Jeff Bezos’ Kuiper project, or with the hypothetical constellation of European satellites, is still very far from Starlink, which also has an unprecedented launch agreement with the FAA. Indeed, the US Federation has given SpaceX the right to launch up to 12,000 satellites into space, a number that could still explode in the coming months, as Elon Musk wants to reach 40,000 satellites, which could provide perfect coverage of the entire planet .
OneWeb currently has 600 operational satellites in orbit. A ridiculous number compared to the 2000 satellites already launched by SpaceX. The company has also recently offered antennas to Ukraine to maintain an Internet connection in the country, should the latter be interrupted on Earth.
Already in great financial difficulties in 2020, OneWeb was taken over last year by an Indian group (Bharti Global) as well as the British government (a 14% player in the company). This partnership with SpaceX is further proof of the fragility of the project, financial but also structural.