Satellite company OneWeb said it has signed an agreement with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to resume satellite launches, just weeks after it suspended such missions amid elevated Western tensions with Russia after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
OneWeb, owned in part by the UK government, said Monday that the first launch by a SpaceX rocket is expected this year to expand its current on-orbit constellation of 428 satellites.
“With these launch plans in place, we’re on track to finish building out our full fleet of satellites and deliver robust, fast, secure connectivity around the globe,” said OneWeb Chief Executive Neil Masterson.
The agreement with rocket company Space Exploration Technologies Corp., as SpaceX is formally known, comes after the Russian space agency Roscosmos withdrew cooperation on certain projects Earlier this month, disrupting some rocket operations.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has stressed international space cooperation. Roscosmos cast doubts on its future involvement at the International Space Station and said it was halting deliveries of rocket engines to the US
Roscosmos had threatened to block a launch of OneWeb’s communications satellites unless it was given guarantees they wouldn’t be used for military purposes. The agency had suggested the UK should divest the stake, an idea the British government quickly rejected.
SpaceX is launching its own constellation of communications satellites. The Starlink system is a competitor to OneWeb.
“We thank SpaceX for their support, which reflects our shared vision for the boundless potential of space,” Mr. Masterson said.