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Russian Soyuz carrier rocket to orbit 15 foreign satellites in autumn

A Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket will blast off in the autumn to deliver Russia’s Gonets communications satellites into orbit along with 15 foreign space vehicles as a hosted payload, Deputy CEO of Glavkosmos commercial launch operator Vitaly Safonov announced on Thursday.

“As part of the launch of Gonets space vehicles in the autumn of this year, there are plans to orbit an additional payload of 15 foreign-made small satellites and four small space vehicles of Russian universities,” the deputy chief executive said.

Over 140 small satellites have been delivered into a low near-Earth orbit jointly with the launches under the federal space program since 2014, Safonov said.

Currently, the issue of delivering small satellites into geostationary orbits is being explored, he added.

A source in the Russian space industry earlier told TASS that the first launch of Gonets-M communications satellites atop a Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket was planned for the end of September from the Plesetsk spaceport.

The Gonets next-generation satellite system will offer communications, including telephone services, in hard-to-access places, including the Arctic, and provide infrastructure for the Internet of things. In the long run, it will allow transmitting data online from any objects, including mobile. The orbital grouping is expected to comprise 28 satellites in low near-Earth orbit.

Further launches of OneWeb satellites

A decision on further launches of satellites belonging to the British company OneWeb that filed for bankruptcy in March will be made by investors, the Glavkosmos deputy chief said.

The program envisages 21 launches of Soyuz carrier rockets for delivering a commercial grouping of OneWeb satellites into orbit. By now three commercial launches have been carried out, he recalled.

“A decision on conducting the other contracted launches will be presumably made by new investors already in July, proceeding from the situation related to the restructuring of OneWeb’s financial liabilities,” Safonov said.

The British start-up company OneWeb that planned to provide cheap Internet services across the globe filed for bankruptcy and reorganization in late March. Head of Russia’s State Space Corporation Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin said in April that the company’s bankruptcy and the pandemic put no less than nine Russian space launches at risk.

The first six OneWeb satellites were launched from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana atop a Soyuz-ST rocket on February 28, 2019 and delivered into orbit on the same day. Overall, the UK company intended to deploy about 600 satellites in the near-Earth orbit and start their commercial operation in 2020.

By 2021, OneWeb planned to provide round-the-clock communications with its satellites. The contract signed between Arianespace and OneWeb in 2015 stipulated 21 launches by Russian-made Soyuz carrier rockets from the Kourou and Baikonur spaceports, with an option for five additional blast-offs.

Overall, OneWeb delivered 74 satellites into the low near-Earth orbit.

Header: AMUR REGION, RUSSIA – JULY 2, 2019: A view of the Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket with the Meteor-M 2-2 satellite installed at a launch pad of Vostochny Cosmodrome; the carrier rocket is to deliver into orbit Meteor-M 2-2 designed by VNIIEM Corporation on 5 July 2019. Valery Sharifulin/TASS

Source: TASS