The unexpected rapprochement between SpaceX and OneWeb due to the Russian invasion

Due to the Russian-led war in Ukraine, OneWeb can no longer use Soyuz launchers. The company therefore chose to work with SpaceX. In a press release published on March 21, 2022, the British company announces that it has entered into a partnership with SpaceX to transport its future satellites into low orbit, around the world.

OneWeb no longer works with Russians

According to OneWeb’s press release, “the first launch with SpaceX is planned for 2022 and will add to OneWeb’s constellation in orbit, which currently has 428 satellites or 66% of the target”. The outbreak of war made it impossible to continue this collaboration: at the end of February, Russia ends Soyuz launches from Kourou. This partnership allowed OneWeb to place its satellites in low orbit. The new agreement reached with SpaceX puts an end to a period of uncertainty for OneWeb.

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As a direct competitor to Starlink, SpaceX could have actually refused to cooperate. OneWeb and Starlink offer similar services. The British company wants to offer “access to the Internet from space thanks to a large fleet of satellites”. The least we can say is it is an unexpected connection. The seriousness of the situation made the two companies cooperate. With this partnership, SpaceX will participate in the growth of a competing network with its Falcon 9 rockets.

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One would think that this was a strategic mistake on the part of the American company, but if we look at the problem the other way around, SpaceX can be a winner in this collaboration. OneWeb would surely have ended up finding another partner and therefore succeeded in sending its satellites into orbit.

By agreeing to send the British satellites, SpaceX takes advantage of charging for launches. Actually the two companies do not target exactly the same markets. Starlink targets individuals, while OneWeb offers a B2B offering. Elon Musk also believes that there is room “for everyone” in orbit.

This means that the two companies will not step on each other in the short term. The same for the orbit, the two constellations do not develop at the same distance from Earth. Starlink satellites are located 550 kilometers from Earth, while OneWebs is 1,200 kilometers height.

This new partnership with SpaceX also puts an end to a diplomatic conflict between Russia and the UK. Putin’s government actually opposed OneWeb covering Russia on the grounds that the British government, which took (partial) control of the company, could use it for espionage purposes.

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