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Russia refuses to launch internet satellites, citing sanctions

This has jeopardised the plans of OneWeb, a London-based satellite startup striving for global internet connectivity and a key competitor to Elon Musk's StarLink satellite internet constellation

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Moscow: Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, on Thursday announced that it will not be undertaking any satellite launches in the near future citing sanctions imposed upon Russia by the US and its allies in the wake of the Ukraine war.

This has jeopardised the plans of OneWeb, a London-based satellite startup striving for global internet connectivity and a key competitor to Elon Musk’s StarLink satellite internet constellation, was set to launch a batch of 36 internet satellites Friday as part of its plan for a 648-satellite constellation, CNN reported.

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These satellites were to be be delivered into low Earth orbit by the Russian-built Soyuz rocket operated by France’s Arianespace SA, launching from Russia-owned Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. OneWeb and Russia had inked a multi-year deal for satellite launches, with the company launching all its satellites exclusively on Russia’s Soyuz rocket.

Dmitry Rogozin, Director General of Roscosmos and a former Deputy Prime Minister on Thursday said that the launch will no longer go ahead in response to UK’s sanctions on Russia following the invasion of Ukraine. The UK government was to sell all stakes in OneWeb and the company had guaranteed that the satellites will not be used for military purposes, as per the requirements of Roscosmos.

Roscosmos stressed the demands are “due to the UK’s hostile stance towards Russia” on Wednesday. The deadline for requests to be met is 9:30 pm Moscow time Thursday, Rogozin said. 

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