On March 9, SpaceX launched competitor OneWeb’s 40 internet-beaming satellites to orbit atop a veteran Falcon 9 rocket. OneWeb is a startup headquartered in London, United Kingdom, that is working to build a broadband satellite constellation to provide internet coverage globally – similar to SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet network. However, OneWeb will operate a constellation of 648 satellites that will be in a 1,200-kilometer orbit, while SpaceX’s thousands of Starlink satellites operate at much lower altitudes of around 550 kilometers. At a higher altitude, OneWeb expects to provide initial internet download speeds of at least 50 to 150 megabits per second. Even though the companies are competitors, OneWeb said that through its partnership with SpaceX it aims to inspire global cooperation in space.
Thursday’s OneWeb mission is the company’s ‘Launch 17’ and is the third mission launched by SpaceX. A previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 2:13 p.m. ET from Space Launch Complex-40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida to deliver the 40 OneWeb satellites into Polar Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/ajIbw8N18I— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 9, 2023
Approximately 7 minutes and 52 seconds after liftoff, the sooty Falcon 9 first-stage booster returned from space with a propulsive descent on terra firma at Landing Zone-1. It marked SpaceX’s 177th landing of an orbital-class rocket and the 149th time SpaceX reused a booster in its Falcon 9 Block 5 fleet. The booster that supported the OneWeb mission is identified as B1062-13, it now has launched thirteen missions since 2020 which include: the United States Space Force’s GPS III Space Vehicle 04 and GPS III Space Vehicle 05, SpaceX’s all-civilian Inspiration4 mission in 2021, Axiom’s first astronaut mission to the International Space Station (Ax-1) in 2022, Egypt’s Nilesat 301 satellite, and seven Starlink missions. SpaceX shared amazing footage of the booster landing, shown below.
Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on Landing Zone 1 pic.twitter.com/pNzYUY0kmv— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 9, 2023
Falcon 9 first stage landing at LZ-1 pic.twitter.com/Svzgyczfo5— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 9, 2023
The Falcon 9’s upper-stage continued its voyage to orbit where it deployed the 40 satellites in three batches beginning at 59 minutes after liftoff. All satellites were successfully deployed 1 hour and 35 minutes after launch. With this deployment, OneWeb now operates a total of 582 satellites in orbit. The recently launched satellites will use their onboard thrusters to rise into their operational altitude of 1,200 kilometers in Polar Orbit. “Today’s launch is an exciting milestone as we are now just one mission away from completing our Gen 1 constellation, which will activate global service in 2023," stated Chief Executive Officer of OneWeb Neil Masterson, "Now more than ever, OneWeb is dedicated to continuing the momentum we have garnered from the past 17 successful launches, to innovate alongside our trusted partners and deliver connectivity solutions at scale. Each launch is a group effort, and today’s success would not have been possible without the dedication of the entire launch team and our partners here in Florida,” they said.
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More photos from today’s launch pic.twitter.com/0ejB0D7lUU— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 10, 2023
Featured Images Source: SpaceX
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.