Russia states demands to launch OneWeb satellites as Telstra signs memo with OneWeb

Roscosmos wants guarantee from the UK satellite company it will not use its satellites for military purposes.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor
Image: Roscosmos/Getty Images

The Russian space agency has threatened to halt the launch of three dozen internet satellites owned by UK-based satellite company OneWeb unless the company meets its demands.

Roscosmos tweeted that the agency refuses to launch the OneWeb-owned satellites planned for launch on March 5 if the company does not guarantee its satellites will not be used for military purposes. The satellites are being carried in a Soyuz rocket, which has been rolled out to the Russia-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad.

The space agency also went on to say that the satellites will not be launched until the UK government sold its share in OneWeb.

UK Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarten has rejected the demand.

"There's no negotiation on OneWeb: The UK government is not selling its share," he tweeted.

UK government purchased OneWeb as part of a $500 million bailout deal in 2020.

Roscosmos claims the demands are in light of "Britain's hostile stance against Russia". It has been seven days since Russia invaded Ukraine.

At the same time, the head of the space agency has reportedly warned that Russia will treat any hacking of its satellites as a justification for war.

Meanwhile, Australia telco incumbent Telstra and OneWeb have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to explore the use of low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites to improve connectivity across Australia and the Asia Pacific region.

The scope of the non-exclusive agreement is yet to be finalised, but it is expected to happen over the coming months.

In a statement, Telstra boss Andy Penn said the company sees "lots of opportunities for our consumer, small business, and enterprise customers using LEO satellite connectivity – from backhaul to back-up for resiliency, from IoT to supporting emergency services, from home broadband to supporting agritech".

"It also opens up opportunities in the wider Asia-Pacific region alongside our existing and future operations," he added.

OneWeb currently has 428 satellites on LEO that is "delivering connectivity to customers in remote regions of Alaska, Canada, and the North Sea".

"Launches will continue during 2022 to enable the company to offer commercial connectivity services globally later this year," OneWeb said.

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