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Russian-run space port suspends satellite launch by UK company OneWeb

UK government-backed communications company's board decided not to carry out satellite launch after it was denied use of Russian-operated spaceport.

On Friday, OneWeb would have launched 36 broadband satellites in Kazakhstan using Russian Soyuz rockets and under the supervision of the Russian space agency.

Nevertheless, the board of the London-based company voted to "suspend all launches" from the Baikonur Cosmodrome following political pressure after the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine. The move was welcomed by the UK government, which is a major shareholder.

Russian space agency Roscosmos also exerted pressure on OneWeb and the UK government before the launch at the Baikonur launch site in Moscow, on top of domestic demands.

Interfax reports agency chief Dmitry Rogozin said on Wednesday that he wants to make sure western governments cannot use the satellites. He also called for the "removal of the British government from the list of shareholders."

On Thursday morning, the company's board of directors voted to suspend Friday's launch as a response to Kwateng's statement.

After being questioned about the situation on Wednesday, Downing Street said "it is very right" that questions are being raised about Russian space cooperation, and that the OneWeb launch was carefully monitored prior to its cancellation.

3 March 2022


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