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.