Arianespace completes its last operation of the year on 27th December with the launch of 36 satellites for low Earth orbit broadband operator OneWeb.
OneWeb’s most recent batch of satellites releases on a Soyuz 2.1 rocket at 8.10 a.m. Eastern time from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The U.K.-headquartered start-up says it has made a connection with all satellites. This is after they were released from the rocket’s Fregat upper stage, following nine split sequences over the course of almost four hours from lift-off.
It will now take a few weeks for the spacecraft to boost themselves to an operating altitude of 1,200 kilometers. This is where they will expand OneWeb’s network from 358 to 394 satellites or more than 60% of its planned 648-strong constellation.
Arianespace conducts the operation with French-Russian affiliate Starsem, which commercializes Soyuz launches.
It is the eighth operation Arianespace has completed for OneWeb this year with Soyuz rockets –
- Three from Baikonur Cosmodrome
- Five from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia
Following production and launch vehicle integration developments, it is also the first time a Soyuz rocket delivered 36 satellites from the Baikonour Cosmodrome. This is instead of the normal 34 from Kazakhstan.
The operation comes just days after Arianespace effectively finished the long-anticipated launch. This is of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Dec. 25, which lifted off on an Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou, French Guiana.
In total, Arianespace completes 15 launch operations in 2021, a 50% increase over 2020.
SpaceX launches its Falcon 9 rocket for the 31st time this year on 21st December, easily beating SpaceX’s earlier record of 26 launches in a calendar year that is set in 2020.
Arianespace anticipates launching the remaining satellites for OneWeb’s initial constellation next year in order to enable global services. The startup is presently conducting network tests in Alaska.