SpaceX is giving a much-needed boost to the competition with its next Falcon 9 launch from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center Thursday night.
Elon Musk’s rocket company is scheduled to launch 40 new satellites for OneWeb, which seeks to compete with Musk’s own Starlink broadband constellation in providing space-based internet access.
OneWeb, which is based in London and owned in part by the UK government, had previously launched its satellites on Russian Soyuz rockets. But that option quickly became complicated and untenable after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Instead, the company turned to SpaceX, securing a handful of launches and also purchasing launch services on Indian rockets, including one in October.
“We thank SpaceX for their support, which reflects our shared vision for the boundless potential of space,” OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson said in a statement in March.
SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
OneWeb’s constellation is significantly smaller than Starlink. This launch will put it at 80% of its planned 648 satellites operating at once, compared with the more than 10,000 Starlink has been authorized to put in low-Earth orbit. Nonetheless, OneWeb says it plans to be able to deliver global coverage in 2023.
In a nod to the surprising scenario of doing business with its competition, OneWeb tweeted the below GIF last week purportedly showing the company opting to follow the SpaceX Twitter account.
After initially aiming for launch on Tuesday, blastoff was pushed to allow for “additional pre-launch checks” and is now set for Thursday at 5:27 p.m. ET (2:27 p.m. PT).
About 10 minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9 first-stage booster will return for a landing on shore at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Sonic booms from the rocket’s reentry are likely to be heard in the area.
You can watch via the livestream feed below.