back to article OneWeb drops launches from Russia's Baikonur spaceport

The board of satellite constellation provider OneWeb this morning said it had voted to suspend all launches from Baikonur, a day after Russia's space agency said this weekend's lift-off was in doubt. Roscosmos yesterday demanded the "withdrawal of the British government from the shareholders of OneWeb" after seeking a …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At least we still have Galileo.

    Oh, hang on ....

    1. spireite Silver badge

      Re: At least we still have Galileo.

      They still have to Figaro that out

      1. David 132 Silver badge

        Re: At least we still have Galileo.


    2. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      Re: At least we still have Galileo.

      Actually there are still another 10(?) Galileo satellites to add and they are launched by Soyuz launchers operated by Ariannespace ...

  2. Plest Silver badge


    Russians: "We don't want to deal with you until you meet our demands!"

    OneWeb: "OK, sod you then! Well take our custom elsewhere! Cheers!"

    1. Craig 2

      Re: Hilarious!

      Hopefully this might show the beancounters the importance of having your own launch capabilities. The West is heading in the right direction but it's all about a decade too late. If there had been less mucking about and more money, OneWeb could really have said "Screw you" knowing there was plenty of alternatives.

      Hindsight is a beautiful thing, but it's not like there hasn't been a lot of shouting about this very situation for years...

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Hilarious!

        "Hindsight is a beautiful thing"

        Just as well given that foresight has been out of fashion for several decades.

        1. ICL1900-G3

          Re: Hilarious!

          Yep. Who could have forseen that Putin would turn out to be an evil little shit? Easy mistake to make.

          1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

            Re: Hilarious!

            Or brexit would be a disaster...

          2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Hilarious!

            Who could have forseen that Putin would turn out to be an evil little shit?

            After all, KGB colonels are well known for being all sweetness and light..

  3. Sykowasp

    I wonder how long it would take to adapt OneWeb to launching on Falcon 9 or alternatives.

    It probably isn't as simple as just sticking the satellites into the space on top of the rocket. There's the size of the satellites to take into account, and how they are deployed from the rocket. The may be lucky and it is possible in a short time period.

    I guess the 36 satellites ready to launch need to be written off, they aren't coming back, and the sanctions aren't stopping soon.

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

      Even if they do come back, would you trust that they hadn't been tampered with in some way?

    2. RegGuy1 Silver badge

      Well the Bearded One wants to bring his 747 rocket launcher to the South West. Here's something he could launch.

  4. NoneSuch Silver badge
    Paris Hilton


    His reply reminded me of Team America's "Matt Damon!" for some strange reason.

  5. TeeCee Gold badge

    ...Roscosmos expressed "skepticism" over extending past 2024 under sanctions.

    Reminds me of Richie Blackmoor's response to the press, when David Coverdale said there was definitely no Deep Purple reunion on, as he hadn't heard anything about it.

    "Who the fuck asked him anyway?".

    1. Lars Silver badge

      Apparently Roscosmos doesn't expect Russia to pull out of Ukraine before that then.

      A Putin boutique one has to assume.

  6. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Lets not pretend that the UK government investing in Oneweb has anything to do with the desire to provide satellite internet in the first place, it was always a military usage they were interested in. What remains to be seen is can Oneweb's balance sheet cope with writing off those satellites that were due to go up on the Russian rockets without needing more government cash?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Brexit ...

      OneWeb was the UKs response to shooting itself in the foot over the Galileo fuckup with Brexit.

      The fact it's gone sour so quickly - albeit not as many might have predicted - just underscores what a shit idea Brexit continues to be.

      It was interesting that regardless of what the "sovereign" UK decided, RT and Sputnik went dark because they are in the EUs jurisdiction.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re. can Oneweb's balance sheet cope with writing off those satellites

      in one word: yes. Just change the figures on the balance sheet. Given how easy it was to lose 4 - 30bn (gbp, not roubles), to covid-related scam, I don't believe a few m here or that matters :(

      ps. yes, I'm a Putin bot and I demand my 5 roubles now!

      1. eldakka

        Re: re. can Oneweb's balance sheet cope with writing off those satellites

        > ps. yes, I'm a Putin bot and I demand my 5 roubles now!

        Will you take a wire transfer? That's the only way to pay in fractions of a cent.

  7. fxkeh

    (eventual) refund?

    If you've already paid for a service (rockets to deliver your satellites) and then the provider suddenly adds extra conditions to the contract (can't be used for military use; one of two major shareholders has to sell their stake), you'd have grounds for expecting your money refunded, surely? I'm not saying you'd expect a refund any time soon, but I'd be filing papers with whatever international court of arbitration is applicable.

    1. Not Irrelevant

      Re: (eventual) refund?

      When the organization that owes you money is an arm of a government that feels free to invade its neighbors on a whim, you can just kiss those payments goodbye.

      1. fishman

        Re: (eventual) refund?

        On the other had this will make it more difficult for Roscosmos to get future customers.

        1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

          Re: (eventual) refund?

          Rogozin made demands because he knows there are no future customers to lose.

    2. fidodogbreath

      Re: (eventual) refund?

      I'm not saying you'd expect a refund any time soon, but I'd be filing papers with whatever international court of arbitration is applicable.

      "And how many divisions does the Court have?"

    3. Timbo

      Re: (eventual) refund?

      "I'm not saying you'd expect a refund any time soon, but I'd be filing papers with whatever international court of arbitration is applicable."

      If I was OneWeb, I'd write off the satellites, perhaps upload a virus to them, (if they were suddenly switched on, thereby making them unusable)...and then accept as "payment" the monies from the sale of one (or more) oligarchs recently seized "assets"...

      There's some nice shiny boats/yachts that have been seized by France already...and maybe OneWeb fancies branching out into a London football club (unless Abramovich can sell it quickly...though the b*$t*rd Tory govt is taking it's time to increase sanctions against some of the sponsors of it's political them a chance to move their funds :-( )

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: (eventual) refund?

        They are likely to be at the back of a long queue.

        There are a lot of leased Airbuses in Russia that the Irish companies aren't getting back.

        There are also going to be a lot of knock off spare parts on the open market as a lot of Russian Del-Boys strip everything movable from every bit of kit.

    4. crayon

      Re: (eventual) refund?

      The UK prevented the internationally recognised government of Venezuela from withdrawing their gold stashed in the Bank of England. When can Venezuela expect their gold to be refunded + interest + damages. Iran, I believe is still waiting for the return of the money paid to the UK for tanks that were not delivered. UK & the US are the biggest international bank robbers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: (eventual) refund?

        Ooh, I see Putin's useful idiots have awoken from their torpor and found this site. Good job! Now please, do educate us how the invasionspecial military operation in Ukraine is actually all the fault of Brexit, Trump and the West in general? Those cluster bombs raining down on schools and residential areas, are those because of Margaret Thatcher? Nicholas Maduro's brutal repression in Venezuela, is that also due to Boris Johnson? "Internationally-recognised government", you must be using the new definition of "international" that limits world consensus to only Cuba, China, Russia, Turkey, and Iran, right? I forget.

        Or alternatively, just fuck off.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: (eventual) refund?

          Those cluster bombs raining down on schools and residential areas, are those because of Margaret Thatcher?

          Well if we could have sold cluster bombs to the Russians I'm pretty certain we would have. I mean, we sell lots of dodgy stuff to the Saudis, for a start. We have no right to be morally right. Historically Iran, China, India and many other places would be justified in berating us for our past actions.

          Nobody, especially Britain, comes out of this well.

          I am no apologist for Russia, but their beef is the fear of losing full access to the Black Sea, a warm water port. That is why Crimea is so important. Tim Marshal's Prisoners of Geography may open your eyes to geopolitics.

          Still, if you want to think Britain and the West is great, everybody else is evil, have it your way.

          And just to be clear -- this war is disgraceful and Putin is a war criminal. The bombing of Dresden by 'Bomber Harris' was a disgrace, and Harris was a war criminal. But funnily enough, we think he's great. Go figure.

          1. zuckzuckgo Silver badge

            Re: (eventual) refund?

            If the sins of the past disqualify you from saying and doing the right things now, then there is no person or country left to do the right thing. That kind of thinking leads no where that I want to go.

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: (eventual) refund?

            The current antics may well end up costing them access to the Pacific

            I wouldn't be at all surprised if China ends up buying back its ceded 1850 territories at knock-down rates

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: (eventual) refund?

      Roscosmos has claimed 'force majeure' to sidestep breach of contract and it will complicate any insurance claims by OneWeb.

    6. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: (eventual) refund?

      OneWeb hired Boeing to make the satellites. Part of the contract was that OneWeb had to buy launches from Boeing. Pre Starlink, the satellite costs might have been reasonable but post Starlink the satellites are overpriced or under featured. That is half of what drove OneWeb bankrupt. The other half is Boeing ignored the cheapest launch provider (SpaceX) and negotiated a really good bulk price from Roscosmos. Boeing then charged OneWeb Roscosmos's full retail price for each launch.

      Roscosmos spent lots of money half building rockets for the OneWeb contract then OneWeb went bankrupt leaving Roscosmos with lots of value stranded in rockets it could not sell. Luckily the UK government came to their rescue. If things went the same way as before, Roscosmos has taken Boeing's deposit and fees for previous launches but will not be getting money for future launches. In theory, Boeing is owed money or launches but has not way to collect.

      Perhaps Boeing owes OneWeb money or launches but judging by OneWeb's negotiating skills I would not bet on it. If the UK government renegotiated the deal then I am certain UK tax payers now owe Boeing money.

      If you have a good product you sell it to people. If you have a bad product you sell it to businesses. If your product is completely FUBAR you get a government to mandate its use. OneWeb was not competitive with SpaceX so there is no chance of retail sales. They may still get somewhere with a tiny numer of commercial customers if there are any who can make good use of the partial constellation. At this time OneWeb really needs a government mandate.

      Boeing could offer launch on ULA's Vulcan. Boeing owns 50% of ULA and would like to close that deal but Vulcan will use Blue Origin's BE-4 engine - if Blue ever delivers (Try an image search for "Where are my engines Jeff?"). If OneWeb cannot or will not buy launches from SpaceX the next options are China and India - but only if they can get that past Boeing. India's GSLV2 is a bit small but Bharti Global owns half of OneWeb so it may go that way. Blue Origin still talks about launching this year but I am not sure how a litigation company can put anything in orbit especially when New Glenn is supposed to use BE-4 engines.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: (eventual) refund?

        "OneWeb was not competitive with SpaceX so there is no chance of retail sales."

        This may or may not be a good example, but as we have seen with both COVID and current geopolitical issues, have your own product or local source of product rather than outsourced to cheapest supplier is suddenly a "Good Thing"tm again.

        A better example might be local government procurement in the UK. They are legally obliged to go with the cheapest supplier[1], hence a number of them now scrambling to find way to disentangle themselves fro Gazprom gas supply contracts.

        [1] Yes, it's possible to avoid cheap shit by making sure the requirements of the contract can exclude those suppliers, but that in itself can be problematical.

  8. Teejay

    Handing Russia the keys to UK's security

    It seems very probable that the Russians have or now will reverse engineer the security keys contained within the satellites. One can only hope that all satellites already up and running will have their current keys revoked and replaced by new ones. I am not firm enough on public / private key cryptography, but for me it feels that handing the Russians this data on a platter is asking for an attack later down the line.

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Handing Russia the keys to UK's security

      As I understand it (but I am not in the industry) they get launched with a stripped down firmware that handles the 'separation' and 'getting into position' roles. Once they're in place they get a new firmware uploaded which does the operational stuff.

      So hopefully the keys aren't in the factory firmware anyway.

      OK, they'll get an insight into the capabilities but I doubt there's anything remarkable in that. Unless they've embedded a KW laser, which could be quite handy just as soon as Putin shows his face somewhere within range...

  9. Mishak Silver badge

    RD-180 Engines

    Russia has also announced that it will not be supplying any more engines (which get used for military flights, among other things) to the US. Support for those they already have has also been withdrawn.

    Work was already under way to replace them (someone pointed out that it probably wasn't a good idea to have the defence of your country dependent on a hostile nation - duh! Really?), but the program is running late...

    Updated to add:

    Reported by Reuters

    1. SkippyBing

      Re: RD-180 Engines

      How long would it take the US to reverse engineer them?

      It only took the USSR 2 years to copy the B-29 including developing the right spec alloys, plastics, and electronics.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: RD-180 Engines

        Depends. Most of the tame Nazi scientists the US secretly kept away from punishment to get their rocket program going must have died out by now, so maybe they can catch some errant fresh Russian ones instead?

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: RD-180 Engines

        1 year to copy the Rolls Royce Nene into the Klimov VK1 that powered the Mig 15.

    2. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: RD-180 Engines

      However, Atlas was already end-of-lifed and production ended.

      The CEO of ULA has tweeted that they have all the RD-180 engines they need for the remaining 25 or so missions in a US warehouse.

      How long would it take the US to reverse engineer them?

      The US already has the manufacturing info from Russia, as manufacturing the engines in the US was a requirement by Congress... who then failed to provide any of the promised funding for said manufacturing.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Re: RD-180 Engines

      > Work was already under way to replace them (someone pointed out that it probably wasn't a good idea to have the defence of your country dependent on a hostile nation - duh! Really?), but the program is running late...

      Well, one would hope that the Yanks have enough nous to reverse engineer an evolution of a 1960's design rocket engine. And if they don't they can always buy them from North Korea. ;-)

    4. crayon

      Re: RD-180 Engines

      "that it probably wasn't a good idea to have the defence of your country dependent on a nation to which you are hostile to- duh! Really?)"

      Yes, really.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Meh. The ISS has been operational decades beyond its original planned life span. I think if they have to shut it down, so be it. Better than kow-towing to a dictator.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Maybe they could deorbit it on top of said dictator?

    2. Timbo

      One wonders what is happening aboard the ISS with the current Expedition 66 crew...2 from Roscosmos, 4 from NASA and 1 from ESA.

      Maybe the Russian cosmonauts will stay in their own section and not stray into the "NASA exclusion zone" ;-)

      Additional crew are due to arrive on 18th March 2022, with 3 extra crew from Roscosmos joining, taking the number onboard to 10....(though at least 2 crew will subsequently return to Earth on 30th March).

      They could organise a nice game of 5-a-side football with 5 from NASA/ESA and 5 from Roscosmos. !

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I expect the astronauts are colllectively shaking their heads at the ignorance and stupidity of their "leaders." :(

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          At the very least, the Roscomos 'nauts have proper access to the worlds media and, depending on what observation kit they have up there, maybe even see for themselves what's happening. Unlike the average Russian in Russia who is limited to what the State wants them to know,

      2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        Attempt no landing here...

        "One wonders what is happening aboard the ISS with the current Expedition 66 crew...2"

        There's a Peter Hyams documentary about a very similar incidence that happened 12 years ago. The documentary is named for the year.

        Mine's the coat with the heavy duty shades. We're going to need them.

  11. innominatus

    Blue Streak!

    preferably from Saxa Vord

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Blue Streak!

      You forgot the joke icon!

      Seriously, the UK's progress towards any capability has been piss-poor with the 5+ sites fighting for meagre UK funds. SaxaVord has been generally the most successful in publicity and promotion, though Cornwall is doing well on that front. However, the whole business situation and sources of funding up there is "murky" shall we say:

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Blue Streak!

        Cornwall is targetting runway based aircraft launched rockets, while Saxa Vord is targetting "traditional UpGoers". Neither are really competing with each in that respect and likewise, neither could take on both types of launches.

  12. Nifty Silver badge

    Russia has the heavy horses while the West has the ploughshares. Dunno why that came to mind.

    1. Alistair

      @ Nifty

      Like me you like Jethro Tull?

  13. localzuk Silver badge

    Lack of strategic thinking

    The west has basically become fat and soft. We've stopped thinking in terms of strategic industry. We've closed steel plants, instead outsourcing a lot of it to other countries. We've outsourced our launch capabilities to a country that has never been considered a "friend"...

    Maybe this whole debacle will wake our governments up and make them realise that every decision should not be made purely on cost basis alone. Keeping local strategic capabilities are hugely important.

    Just like we should have manufacturing capabilities in the US/EU for chips, storage etc... We're entirely too reliant on another country we don't consider a "friend" - China.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Lack of strategic thinking

      I think the strategy was to bring those countries into the "global fold", especially Russia after the collapse of the USSR. I'd say it was worth a try, but maybe went too far. Especially in the case of China and their extremely restrictive conditions for operating within China. That was a huge red flag (pun intended) but money blinded many to the obvious future problems.

  14. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

    ...Atlas V's manifest is full ahead of its replacement by the Blue Origin-powered Vulcan...

    "Where are my engines, Jeff?"

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