Musk's SpaceX to launch UK's Galileo replacement after Russia ban in huge post-Brexit win

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The agreement with SpaceX will let OneWeb resume its launch programme and complete satellite constellation. 

The UK’s OneWeb network, while currently carrying out different functions to the EU’s Galileo network, it has been tipped to one day rival the the EU constellation.

OneWeb is constellation of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites that beam signals in 3G, 5G, LTE and Wi-Fi for high-speed Internet access to all corners of the globe. 

Express.co.uk first reported that Mr Musk was tipped to be the likely saviour to launch Britain’s OneWeb satellites after Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, held up 36 OneWeb satellites that were supposed to launch on March 4 on a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

It came as a response to harsh sanctions slapped on Russia by the West over its brutal invasion of Ukraine.

It warned that OneWeb had two days to provide “comprehensive legally binding” guarantees that the satellites would not be used for military purposes.

Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, also reportedly said that the OneWeb contract had already been paid in full and Russia would not return the funds. 

 

Mr Rogozin ended up impounding the 36 UK satellites.

OneWeb then responded by cancelling all Russian launches after the furious fallout.

Now, Mr Musk’s SpaceX has swooped in to save the day.

OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson said: “We thank SpaceX for their support, which reflects our shared vision for the boundless potential of space. With these launch plans in place, we’re on track to finish building out our full fleet of satellites and deliver robust, fast, secure connectivity around the globe.”

This comes after Express.co.uk spoke to David Morris, Conservative MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, who said it was likely that OneWeb was looking to American partners following the Russian ban.

 

He said: “One would assume OneWeb has been talking to all the American operators, whether that be NASA, Musk or even Bezos.” 

The first launch with SpaceX is now expected to take place in 2022. 

It will add to OneWeb’s total in-orbit constellation of 428 satellites or 66 percent of the fleet.

The UK Government bought a £400million share in OneWeb after Britain was kicked out of the EU’s Galileo system after Brexit. 

 

While OneWeb currently provides high-speed internet as opposed to positioning services like Galileo, the Government has expressed that the constellation could one day be adapted to carry out a similar function.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told the Science and Technology Committee last month: “In terms of positioning, navigation and timing (PNT), which Galileo is all about, that is something that we could do ourselves. “Some people say ‘we can’t do this, there is no way there we could do PNT outside Galileo’. I don’t happen to agree with this.

“I think through our strategic acquisition of our stake in OneWeb, that does give us a possibility for future capability in PNT.

“I don’t think participation in Galileo was really the be-all and end-all.

“In fact, looking at it, we felt that we weren’t getting our bang for our buck in terms of what our companies and supply chain were getting from it.”

This is a breaking story. More to follow.



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