STORY – The British State, a 17% shareholder in the constellation, refuses to submit to the blackmail of Russia, which demands its withdrawal from the capital, to launch the satellites.
The situation is surreal. A Russian Soyuz rocket is nailed to its launch pad in Baikonur (Kazakhstan) with 36 OneWeb satellites on board, as held hostage by Russia. Barring a last minute miracle, the rocket will not take off on the night of March 4 to 5 as originally planned. This is a sad first: international space cooperation had always been neutral ground, sheltered from geopolitical tensions.
Despite the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the launch campaign had also been carried out, as if nothing had happened. The 36 satellites arrived in Baikonur by Antonov cargo plane on February 15, then prepared before being integrated under the Soyuz fairing at the start of the week. Teams from Arianespace (which markets Soyuz internationally) were on hand, as is always the case, to prepare for this type of launch.
But this appearance of normality was shattered on Wednesday, overtaken by the consequences…