Arianespace/Starsem delivers! Their debut mission from Vostochny Cosmodrome orbits 36 OneWeb satellites

Soyuz climbs away from the Vostochny Cosmodrome’s launch pad on its mission to deploy 36 constellation satellites for OneWeb.

December 18, 2020

With another successful Soyuz launch performed at the service of UK-based OneWeb, Arianespace has once again underscored its position as a key player in the growth market of satellite constellations.

The 36 OneWeb spacecraft – produced by the OneWeb Satellites joint venture of OneWeb and Airbus Defence and Space – was deployed into a circular low Earth orbit during a flight lasting nearly 3 hours and 52 minutes from liftoff to final payload separation. They will join the 74 in-orbit satellites launched on three previous Soyuz missions performed in 2019-2020, bringing the total number to 110.

Conducted from Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Russian Far East, today’s launch was a joint mission of Arianespace and its Starsem affiliate. This marked the 29th Arianespace/Starsem flight overall since the initial “ST” mission in September 1999, and is the first performed at a site other than Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Soaring to success with Soyuz

After an initial powered phase of Soyuz’ three lower stages, the mission – designated Flight ST29 in Arianespace’s launcher family numbering system – included multiple powered phases of the re-ignitable Fregat upper stage to place its passengers at their targeted deployment points.

The Soyuz 2-1b launcher version utilized for Flight ST29 is the result of a joint European/Russian upgrade program, adding a more powerful third stage engine that significantly increases the medium-lift workhorse launcher’s overall performance. As a member of the modernized Soyuz-2 series, it features a digital control system that provides additional mission flexibility and also enables control of the launch vehicle fitted with the enlarged 4.1-meter-diameter ST payload fairing.

Flight ST29 utilized a payload dispenser system developed and produced by prime contractor RUAG Space AB of Linköping, Sweden.

Connecting the unconnected

OneWeb’s goal is to deliver global connectivity from a network of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites that will provide high-bandwidth, low-latency communication services to regions previously unconnected.

In addition to the satellites, OneWeb’s global network will include gateway stations located around the world, and a range of user terminals will provide connectivity services for fixed and mobile communications. These terminals will be compatible with the future needs of the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G.

Today’s mission success marked Arianespace’s fourth launch at the service of OneWeb. The first – performed with a Soyuz in February 2019 from the Spaceport in French Guiana – successfully orbited its initial six spacecraft. This was followed by Arianespace/Soyuz missions in February and March 2020, delivering 34 more satellites each from Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Flight ST29 was the first Arianespace/Starsem mission performed from the Vostochny Cosmodrome.