OneWeb’s first broadband satellites are launched

Soyuz launch for OneWeb
A Russian-built Soyuz rocket lifts off from Arianespace’s launch complex in French Guiana, sending the first six satellites of OneWeb’s broadband constellation into space. (Arianespace via YouTube)

A Russian-built, European-launched Soyuz rocket sent the first six satellites of OneWeb’s broadband data constellation into orbit today, kicking off a years-long campaign aimed at making high-speed internet connections available to billions of people around the world.

Liftoff marked the latest milestone for the international OneWeb consortium, which is locked in a satellite broadband race with SpaceX, Telesat and other high-profile ventures. Such satellite constellations promise to provide global high-speed data services for applications ranging from emergency response to community Wi-Fi and ubiquitous voice and streaming-video coverage.

After years of preparation, today’s launch went off without a hitch at Arianespace’s launch complex in French Guiana, on South America’s east coast. Over the course of more than an hour, OneWeb’s first 325-pound satellites were deployed into 625-mile-high (1,000-kilometer-high) orbits from a cylindrical dispenser that’s been compared to a corncob.

“Tonight is a full success,” Arianespace CEO Stephane Israël declared.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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