Thursday March 9, at 2:13 pm E.T. from SLC-40 at CCSFS
Another forty high speed internet communication satellites for the British company OneWeb were launched today via SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. With lift off at 2:13 pm E.T. from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station this marked the sixteenth orbital launch of the year for SpaceX and now sets a pace of launching every 4.25 days. Roughly eight minutes after launch, incredibly, the first stage booster returned to Earth and touched down safely at LZ-1 creating sonic booms that rippled across the state.
Following today’s launch OneWeb is just under ninety percent of the way done with 578 out of 648 satellites now in orbit. Most of these satellites reached orbit via the Russian Soyuz rockets operated by the French Arianspace company. This agreement ended with the invasion of the Ukraine last year when Russia shut down its operations to foreign entities. OneWeb was forced to go elsewhere and made deals with SpaceX and NSIL (NewSpace India Limited). Today marks the third launch of their satellites with SpaceX and they’ve flown once now with NSIL.
OneWeb’s goal with their constellation is to provide internet coverage to the entire globe. Once completed it will be made up of thirty-sex satellites in each of the orbital planes. The total needed is six hundred satellites and they will have forty-eight as back ups waiting in orbit in case they need to be brought online. There might also be demand for the constellation to be expanded to more than nine hundred satellites in the near future.
Each sat is a compact design with a mass of 150 kg. They’re equipped with a Ku-band antenna which operates between 12 and 18 GHz. This allows each satellite to have eight gigabits per second of throughput. Before the Ukraine invasion each one also had a Russian Fakel SPT-50 ion thruster, but has since changed to a Busek BHT-350 hall effect thruster. They also come with two solar panels for power which are built by Airbus Defense and Space. Other than the original ten satellites they have all been built in OneWeb’s U.S. factory in Cape Canaveral, FL.
This mission marks the thirteenth launch & landing for Falcon 9 B1062, the most recent just twenty-six days before. Of the numerous missions it has now flown, two stand out the most, the Axiom-1, and Inspiration-4 missions which each carried four commercial astronauts to orbit with a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule atop the booster.