Yes, OneWeb is launching its next Mission next week on a Falcon 9 Rocket by its competitor, SpaceX.
The NSE 2022 Conference
As we shared on our social media, we’re attending the New Space Economy ExpoForum 2022 in Rome, Italy from December 1st to December 3rd. The event is at its fourth edition, back in presence after Covid-19 paused all live events.
#NSE2022 Opening panel is starting with:— Space Voyaging (@SpaceVoyaging) December 1, 2022
Rodolfo Guzzi, Chair, @NSEexpoforum
Alberto Tuozzi, President, @amaldi_e
Giorgio Saccoccia, President, @ASI_spazio
Fabio Casasoli, CEO, @FieraRoma
Paolo Orneli, Councillor @RegioneLazio pic.twitter.com/udk8h55oOD
NSE is a very big event, especially for a small country like Italy. It offers a yearly outlook on the most interesting trends of the evolution of the Space sector and gathers visitors, participants, public and private stakeholders, and international organizations in a global dynamic format which brings Space down to Earth as an enabling tool for everyday life.
This year NSE Focus is “Sustainability as a Game Changer” and I should admit that the first day’s panels were quite interesting to attend.
The New Space Economy ExpoForum 2022 aims to discuss Sustainability as the game changer of the quick-running evolution of the institutional and private involvement in the New Space and its future developments by introducing new potential stakeholders and initiatives.
“The scientific program will focus on The Changing Earth, Space Pollution, Human Health and Innovative Space Ventures which contribute to a smart growth of our Society.“Rodolfo Guzzi, Chair of NSE Conference
We will share more about the NSE 2022 panels in our next articles.
“Preserving Dark Skies” & OneWeb
Without any doubt, the most interesting panel of the first day was “Preserving Dark Skies”, a round table that discussed the critical aspects of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Megaconstellations deployments and presented the state of the art of mitigating actions and adopted best practices.
“The invention of plastic in the 1950s, heralded a new era in society, disrupting all aspects of life. It also created one of the biggest environmental disasters ever. Today we launch more satellites than ever. What is the impact?”— Space Voyaging (@SpaceVoyaging) December 1, 2022
This is the opening by Piero Benvenuti.
Among other speakers, the most relevant was Ruth Pritchard-Kelly, Senior Advisor for Regulatory & Space Policy at OneWeb. In her speech, she spoke mainly about the importance of mitigations that Satellite Operators, particularly Megaconstellation, should put in place to avoid disruption of Astronomers’ observations.
“OneWeb is committed to Dark Sky protection, and it’s really important that Operators like us or SpaceX, talk with all the communities involved in the subject.”
— Ruth Pritchard-Kelly, Senior Advisor for Regulatory & Space Policy at OneWeb
Ruth Pritchard-Kelly is an expert on satellite regulatory policy with over 30 years of experience, and has also worked at O3b (now SES Networks) and American Mobile Satellite Corporation.
Unwanted surprises in Orbit
She didn’t hide that, amidst discussions with involved categories and mitigation actions, there was indeed a surprise when Astronomers “called” LEO Satellites Operators to tell that they observed “Optical Interference” due to LEO Megaconstellations.
Ruth Pritchard-Kelly, Senior Advisor for Regulatory & Space Policy, OneWeb says that “optical interference” with observation was “definitely a surprise. We knew about physical interference, we knew about radio interference. But optical, was unexpected”.— Space Voyaging (@SpaceVoyaging) December 1, 2022
When two waves meet, their amplitudes add up. This can cause some crests and troughs to be strengthened and/or others to be canceled. This phenomenon is basically optical interference.
More information about OneWeb mitigation strategies will be included in a future article.
Launching onboard a competitor
As Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year, OneWeb had to halt all of its launches with the Soyuz Rocket, loosing also 36 Satellites, that were already being integrated with the launcher at the Launch Pad facilities, and have never gone back to the owner.
After months of speculations, OneWeb confirmed in a statement that selected SpaceX with its Falcon 9 to complete the deployment of its Gen. 1 constellation, alongside ISRO with LVM3.
“We are arch rivals when it comes to the Service” said Pritchard-Kelly during the NSE 2022 panel, but she added: “I’m excited to confirm that we will launch on SpaceX next week”. In fact the Launch window for Flight #15 opens on Dec. 6 at 22:37 UTC, and the launch will take place at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, from the Historic Launch Complex 39A.
OneWeb also confirmed today that they’re on track to Launch this Mission, that is sort-of historic, where the Launch is being operated by a direct rival of the customer. A great partnership to enable access to Space, indeed.
OneWeb Launch 15 is scheduled to take place with @SpaceX next week from Merritt Island, Florida.— OneWeb (@OneWeb) December 2, 2022
Lift-off is scheduled for no earlier than 17:37 local time on 6 December. That’s 22:37 UTC.#OneWebLaunch15 🚀 pic.twitter.com/N3TDmdDnqo
The last OneWeb Launch was with ISRO on October, and was a full success: all 36 satellites launched are operational, bringing OneWeb’s total Gen. 1 LEO constellation to 462 satellites.
A second, back-to-back Launch with SpaceX
That’s not all, because after the panel, we asked some questions to Ruth Pritchard-Kelly for a future article, and during her answers she stated that their next Launch, designated Flight #16, will also be operated by SpaceX. The Launch window opening is currently targeted for January.
Also, she said that the following launch will also be ON FALCON 9 and not with ISRO. And the launch window for this second flight with @SpaceX opens in January.— Space Voyaging (@SpaceVoyaging) December 1, 2022
So, the next two OneWeb Launches will be both with SpaceX on Falcon 9.
So at this time there’s no ISRO Launch between the first OneWeb-SpaceX Launch and the second one. Potentially, Falcon 9 will launch 80 OneWeb Satellites in less than 60 days span.
With the first 40 Satellites already integrated inside the Falcon 9 fairings, we wish OneWeb and SpaceX Godspeed. Isn’t Cooperation in Space a wonderful thing?
NSE 2022 is the annual appointment conceived and organized by Fiera Roma and the E. Amaldi Foundation, with the sponsorship, among others, of the Italian Space Agency. The event will last until Dec. 3, @Fiera di Roma, Rome – Italy.