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Russian Soyuz-2.1b rocket with 36 OneWeb satellites blasts off from Baikonur

The satellites will separate in several stages

MOSCOW, December 27. /TASS/. A Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket with the Fregat booster and 36 British OneWeb communications satellites blasted off from the Baikonur spaceport, Russia’s State Space Corporation Roscosmos announced in a live broadcast on its website on Monday.

After about nine minutes, the head unit of the Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket comprising the Fregat booster and 36 British OneWeb communications satellites successfully separated from the rocket’s upper stage.

"The head unit separates from the carrier rocket’s upper stage," the launch commentator announced.

The Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket blasted off from the Baikonur spaceport at 16:10 Moscow time on December 27. It will take the booster over eight hours to orbit the satellites. The satellites will separate in several stages. After the process has been completed, the OneWeb orbital cluster will increase to 394 satellites.

This is the first launch of as many as 36 OneWeb satellites from the Baikonur spaceport. Before that, Russian Soyuz rockets orbited 34 British communications satellites in each launch from the spaceport in Kazakhstan.

OneWeb communications satellites

The first six OneWeb satellites were orbited by a Soyuz-ST carrier rocket from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana on February 28, 2019. Another 34 satellites were delivered into outer space on February 7, 2020, and the same amount on March 21 that year from the Baikonur spaceport.

OneWeb satellites were launched from the Vostochny spaceport in the Russian Far East for the first time in December 2020. A total of 36 space vehicles were put into orbit. After that, OneWeb satellites were launched on March 25, April 26, May 28, July 1 and October 14, 2021, from the Vostochny spaceport and on August 22 and September 14 this year from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

The launch program is being implemented under a contract between Glavkosmos (a subsidiary of Roscosmos), Arianespace (the European launch operator for OneWeb satellites) and Starsem.

British OneWeb low-orbit satellites are designed to create a space-based communications system to provide high-speed Internet access in any locality worldwide.