The most recent launch of OneWeb satellites successfully took place on 27 December 27 at Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome. Soyuz flight ST37 lifted-off with 36 OneWeb satellites, which once successfully deployed, will bring the size of the fleet in orbit to 394. Flight ST37 was the 63rd Soyuz mission carried out by Arianespace, the 37th with its Starsem affiliate, and the 12th mission for OneWeb. The mission lasted three hours and 45 minutes. The 36 satellites were deployed during nine separation sequences, at an altitude of 450 km. It was also the fifteenth successful launch operated by Arianespace’s teams this year, bringing to 1,101 the total number of spacecraft orbited since the start of the company’s operations.
“It is a very special time of the year, right between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I would like to warmly thank all the Arianespace and Starsem teams involved in this mission and the incredible work they did alongside our Russian partners in order to allow us to launch, from Baikonour Cosmodrome, our 15th and last launch of 2021. This year has been marked by key milestones, the latest one being that, with today’s flight, we will officially have deployed more than 60 percent of OneWeb’s constellation,” said Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace. The year “2021 has been a really busy year for us with 15 launches operated from three different spaceports, which represents a 50 percent increase in launches over 2020. With 2022 headed in the same direction, we are sure to demonstrate that our services and solutions answer our clients’ needs: any time, any mass, any orbit.”
The launch, Arianespace’s 12th for OneWeb, also was the first time Soyuz delivered 36 satellites instead of the usual 34 from the Baikonour Cosmodrome. This improvement of the efficiency of the flight itself will allow Arianespace to better and more quickly serve the needs of OneWeb. To obtain this result, the team worked to improve every step in the plan: from the manufacturing process to launch vehicle integration and mission programming.
OneWeb’s mission is to create a global connectivity platform through a next-generation satellite constellation in Low Earth Orbit. The OneWeb constellation will deliver high-speed, low-latency connectivity to a wide range of customer sectors, including aviation, maritime, enterprise and government. Central to its purpose, OneWeb seeks to bring connectivity to the hardest to reach places, where fiber cannot reach, and thereby bridge the digital divide. The satellite prime contractor is OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture of OneWeb and Airbus Defence and Space. The satellites were produced in Florida, USA, in its leading-edge satellite manufacturing facilities that can build up to two satellites per day on a series production line dedicated to spacecraft assembly, integration, and testing.
The launch of the satellites was operated by Arianespace and its Euro-Russian affiliate Starsem under contract with Glavkosmos, a subsidiary of Roscosmos, the Russian space agency. Arianespace is responsible for the overall mission and flight-worthiness, with the support of Starsem for launch campaign activities including management of its own launch facilities at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. RKTs-Progress (the Samara Space Center) is responsible for the design, development, manufacture and integration of the Soyuz launch vehicle as well as for the 3-stage Soyuz flight. NPO Lavotchkin is responsible for the launch preparation operations and flight of the Fregat orbital vehicle.