This night at 23:55 EST (05:55 UTC), a Falcon 9 Block 5 successfully deployed 40 satellites, from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, in the OneWeb 16 mission. The mission will increase OneWeb’s LEO fleet, now counting 534 out of a total of 648 satellites in orbit, over 80% of its first-generation constellation.
This is only the second time a Falcon 9 carries OneWeb’s satellites into orbit. Indeed, most of the satellites have been deployed by the Russian launcher Soyuz, but Ukraine’s invasion earlier this year changed the plans. OneWeb first deployed 36 satellites with ISRO this past October and then announced a double launch with its direct competitor, SpaceX, with the Falcon 9 carrying a total of 80 OneWeb satellites in 2 launches, the second one this night.
OneWeb’s LEO satellite fleet
The OneWeb constellation, when completed, will be composed of 648 satellites in 18 different near-polar LEO orbits at 1200km altitude.
In 2015, OneWeb signed a contract with Arianespace to launch the satellites onboard 21 Soyuz launchers. After the start of the war in Ukraine, with the subsequent loss of 35 satellites, OneWeb will finish assembling its constellation with 2 different launchers: the Indian LVM3 and SpaceX’s Falcon 9. The program is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.
Each satellite weighs almost 150kg and can carry up to 60kg of payload in a stowed box. Onboard there are two TTC Omni antennas, two Ku-band antennas, and two Ka-band antennas, operating between 12 and 18 GHz. A download speed of 50Mb/s is expected once the constellation will be completed.
“The OneWeb satellite constellation incorporates up to 3,600 communication antenna subsystems to provide 3G, LTE, 5G, and Wi-Fi services to end users.”OneWeb Official Website
The 40 satellites have been deployed into the near-polar LEO orbit by a Falcon 9 Block 5 from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. The first stage landed at Landing Zone 1, and the fairings will be recovered by the recovery ship Doug.
This was the 196th flight in absolute for a Falcon 9 and the third launch for SpaceX this year, after the Transporter-6 mission and the Starlink 2-4 mission.