OneWeb, a London-based satellite startup striving for global internet connectivity and a key competitor to Elon Musk’s StarLink satellite internet constellation, was set to launch a batch of 36 internet satellites Friday as part of its plan for a 648-satellite constellation. But those plans are now in jeopardy as Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, appears set to roadblock the effort.
A Russian-built Soyuz rocket operated by France’s Arianespace SA was meant to deliver the satellites into low Earth orbit, launching from Russia-owned Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. OneWeb and Russia inked a multi-year deal for satellite launches, with the company launching its satellites exclusively on Russia’s Soyuz rocket.
But Dmitry Rogozin, Director General of Roscosmos and a former Deputy Prime Minister with a flair for inflammatory rhetoric, is refusing to go ahead with what should be a routine launch in response to UK sanctions on Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.
Rogozin has tweeted flamboyant statements in the past in response to Western sanctions — namely in 2014 after the Russian annexation of Crimea. “After analyzing the sanctions against our space industry, I suggest to the USA to bring their astronauts to the International Space Station using a trampoline,” Rogozin said at the time on Twitter following US sanctions against Russia’s space sector.
OneWeb did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.