Russia's Roscosmos Refuses to Launch Satellites of UK firm over Sanctions; Asks Britain to Sell Shares of Company

Russia's war in Ukraine is now expanding into outer space as Moscow's space agency has refused to launch 36 internet satellites of a UK-based firm, clearly mentioning that the refusal decision was taken over sanctions imposed by the West.

Satellite startup OneWeb, a London-based company in which the UK government also holds shares, was set to launch a batch of 36 internet satellites Friday as part of its plan for a 648-satellite constellation. The startup is a key competitor to Elon Musk's StarLink satellite internet constellation.

Satellite (Representative image) Pixabay

However, the refusal by Russia's space agency Roscosmos seems to be disrupting OneWeb's plans. As per the previous plans, a Russian-built Soyuz rocket operated by France's Arianespace SA was scheduled to deliver the satellites into low Earth orbit. The rocket was set to be launched from Russia-owned Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

A multi-year deal was signed between OneWeb and Russia to exclusively launch satellites with of UK-based company on Soyuz rocket.

A Soyuz booster rocket launched the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday, Dec. 3, 2018, carrying Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos, and astronauts Anne McClain of NASA and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadia
Representative image NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

What Roscosmos Say

Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin -- who has also served as former Deputy Prime Minister -- refused to go ahead with a routine launch over Britain's sanctions against Russia over its Ukraine invasion.

The company wants the British government to sell all stakes in the OneWeb and also it maintained that the company must guarantee that satellites will not be used for military purposes, reported CNN.

Demands Made over UK's Hostile Stance Against Russia

The Russian space agency on Wednesday continued to say that demands were made over Britain's hostile stance against Russia.

The logo of Russian space agency Roscosmos Reuters

Rogozin also gave a deadline for Thursday at 9:30 pm (Moscow time) to the UK company to meet his demands.

Currently, OneWeb has 428 satellites in orbit and the last launch of its satellites took place last month.

UK Govt to Not Sell its Shares

Rogozin has been vocal against Western sanctions in the past. He had also criticized the US sanctions related to Russia's space sector imposed in 2014 following Moscow's annexation of Crimea.

"After analyzing the sanctions against our space industry, I suggest to the USA to bring their astronauts to the International Space Station using a trampoline," Rogozin had said.

Meanwhile, UK Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwerteng on Wednesday said that there are no negotiations on OneWeb maintaining that the UK government is not selling its shares.

Kwerteng also said that they are in touch with other shareholders to discuss the next steps.