OneWeb launches second-generation satellites with Relativity Space

WASHINGTON — OneWeb will launch some of its next-generation satellites on Relativity Space’s next-generation launch vehicle beginning in 2025, the companies announced on June 30.

Relativity Space announced that OneWeb has signed a launch service agreement for multiple launches of OneWeb Gen 2 satellites on Relativity’s Terran R reusable launch vehicle in development. The companies declined to disclose details of the agreement, including the value of the contract and the number of launches.

OneWeb has disclosed few details about the planned Gen 2 constellation, although it is expected to contain many more satellites than the company’s current generation of 648 satellites. Those future satellites are likely to provide additional communications services and may also carry navigation payloads.

The lack of detail extends to the size of the satellites themselves. The companies declined to disclose how many satellites would fit on a Terran R, a rocket expected to be in the same class as SpaceX’s Falcon 9.

OneWeb is the first customer to announce Relativity for the Terran R, but the fifth overall. Relativity chief executive Tim Ellis said in a written response to questions that the other four undisclosed customers are “top satellite operators that we’re very excited about on our manifesto.”

Ellis said Relativity has orders from all customers for more than 20 Terran R launches, with a backlog that the company estimated at more than $1.2 billion. “The OneWeb agreement represents a major anchor client with other key client agreements making up the aggregate announced today,” he said. The other four customers each signed multi-launch agreements.

Relativity announced the Terran R in June 2021 at the same time as it announced a $650 million financing round. Terran R will be built using 3D printing technologies that the company has been working on since its inception. Both phases and the payload fairing are reusable.

The company is nearing the first launch of its smaller Terran 1 rocket. The vehicle is being tested at Launch Complex 16 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, ahead of a launch expected later this summer. That mission, dubbed “Good Luck, Have Fun” by the company, will carry no payload.

OneWeb, meanwhile, is preparing to resume the launch of its first-generation constellation, which was interrupted when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February prompted the company to stop using Soyuz vehicles. A OneWeb executive said on June 23 that he expects launches to resume in the fourth quarter using SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark 3.

S Somanath, chairman of the Indian space agency ISRO, told reporters June 30 that two GSLV Mark 3 launches of OneWeb satellites are currently on the agency’s manifesto, one for mid-September to October this year and the other by January 2023.

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