On Thursday, OneWeb said the company’s board had voted to suspend all launches from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, where the Russian spaceport operated by Roscosmos is based.
OneWeb didn’t elaborate on the vote. But the UK’s Business and Energy Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, said his government had refused to divest from OneWeb, which received funding from British authorities in 2020 to stave off a bankruptcy.
“The UK Government supports OneWeb’s decision,” Kwarteng tweeted on Thursday. “In light of Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, we are reviewing our participation in all further projects involving Russian collaboration,” he added.
OneWeb hasn’t commented on the company’s contingency plans. But it’s almost certainly looking for a new launch partner. Russia’s Roscosmos previously helped OneWeb send up 428 of 648 satellites for its internet system, which is designed to serve enterprise users.
Roscosmos was originally scheduled to launch another 36 OneWeb internet satellites tomorrow using a Soyuz rocket. But on Wednesday, the space agency threatened to postpone the launch, citing the UK’s decision to sanction Russia over the conflict in Ukraine.
“Roscosmos demands guarantees OneWeb satellites not to be used for military purposes,” the space agency said in a eet. “Because of Britain’s hostile stance against Russia, another condition for the March 5 launch is that the British government withdraws from OneWeb.”
So far, Roscosmos hasn’t commented on OneWeb’s decision to suspend the launches. But on Thursday, the Russian agency signaled it’s preparing to take a hostile stance against the US and European allies. This has included stopping deliveries of Russian-made rockets to the US for other satellite launches, according to Reuters, citing statements Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin made to Russian state television.
A tweet from Roscosmos on Thursday added: “Russian space program will be adjusted against the backdrop of sanctions, the priority will be the creation of satellites in the interests of defense.”