Amidst the global sanctions against Russia for its invasion on Ukraine, Russian space agency Roscosmos is refusing to launch a batch of 36 internet satellites from OneWeb unless its demands are met. The mission was originally scheduled to launch on a Russian-built Soyuz rocket on 5 March from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
OneWeb is a satellite broadband company that is partly owned by the UK government after a deal that saved it from bankruptcy. Roscosmos Director-General Dmitry Rogozin said that the move is a response to UK sanctions, demanding that the UK government divests its stake in the company and for a guarantee that the satellites will not be used for military purposes.
The space agency said that the rockets and boosters are already paid for and it will not be giving a refund, with Rogozin saying that the money will remain in Russia. In response to the demands, UK Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said that the government refuses to sell it shares and shortly afterwards, OneWeb put out a short statement saying that its board has voted to suspend all future Soyuz launches.
The Board of OneWeb has voted to suspend all launches from Baikonur. pic.twitter.com/p8l80FGxId
— OneWeb (@OneWeb) March 3, 2022
OneWeb is planning to build a constellation of 648 satellites to provide global internet coverage, with 428 already launched. The debut of its commercial service has been delayed several times and is currently planned for mid-2022. Meanwhile, its rival in the satellite broadband market, SpaceX, has just sent a batch of Starlink terminals to the Ukraine to assist with internet disruptions.