CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – SpaceX launched a rival Internet satellite on Thursday, stepping in to help after London-based company OneWeb suspended flights with Russia because of the Ukraine attack.
The Falcon rocket blasted off into the sunset with 40 small satellites headed for polar orbit. They will expand the OneWeb constellation to just over 500, about 80% of the total planned number of 630 satellites.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has more than 3,200 Starlink satellites in orbit, providing high-speed, broadband internet to the far corners of the world. Amazon plans to launch its first Internet satellite early next year from Cape Canaveral.
As the global Internet service market is “expandingly growing,” there is room for everyone, said Massimiliano Ladovaz, OneWeb’s chief technology officer.
SpaceX agreed to launch OneWeb satellites after the British company cut ties with Russia in March. Russian Soyuz rockets have already launched 13 sets of OneWeb satellites, as of 2019.
India began to relax in Octobersending a number of OneWeb satellites.
While there were other launch options, SpaceX and India offered the fastest and best combination, Ladovaz said shortly before takeoff.
Two more SpaceX launches and one from India are planned for OneWeb in the next few months to complete the company’s orbiting constellation in the spring. OneWeb already provides Internet service in Alaska, Canada and northern Europe; new satellites will increase coverage across the US and Europe, as well as large parts of Africa and South America, and elsewhere, according to Ladovaz.
The OneWeb satellites – each about the size of a washing machine and weighing 330 pounds (150 kilograms) – were built at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in partnership with France’s Airbus.
Thursday’s launch took place just a few miles from the same site where Apollo astronauts blasted off the moon, last Dec. 7, 1972.
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