OneWeb, a London-based satellite startup striving for global internet connectivity and a major competitor to Elon Musk’s satellite internet constellation StarLink, is set to launch a constellation of 36 internet satellites on Friday as part of its plan for a 648-satellite constellation. But those plans are now in jeopardy as it appears that the Russian space agency Roscosmos will hamper these efforts.
The Russian-made Soyuz rocket operated by France’s Arianespace SA was intended to deliver satellites into low Earth orbit, launching them from the Russian-owned Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. OneWeb and Russia signed a multi-year satellite launch agreement, with the company launching its satellites exclusively on a Russian Soyuz rocket.
But Dmitriy Rogozin, director general of Roscosmos and a former deputy prime minister with inflammatory rhetoric, refuses to move forward with what should be a routine launch in response to the UK’s sanctions on Russia in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine.
Rogozin has tweeted inflammatory comments in the past in response to Western sanctions – specifically in 2014 after Russia’s annexation of Crimea. “After analyzing the sanctions imposed on our space industry, I propose to the United States to bring astronauts to the International Space Station using a trampoline,” Rogozin said at the time. On Twitter after US sanctions against the Russian space sector.
Despite Rogozin’s inflammatory tweets and interviews, the United States and Russia have historically cooperated in space. While tensions on Earth have led to threats of an early exit, Rogozin promised Russia would remain a NASA partner on the International Space Station at least until the station’s eventual retirement.
OneWeb did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
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