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OneWeb launches 36 satellites in bid to catch up to SpaceX

The company is out of bankruptcy and back to space.

A Soyuz rocket prepares to launch 34 OneWeb satellites from Kazakhstan.

OneWeb is back. The company on Friday made its fourth launch of a batch of satellites to build up its constellation in low-Earth orbit that eventually will provide broadband internet access around the globe.

The latest group of 36 satellites headed to orbit atop a Russian Soyuz rocket from Vostochny Cosmodrome, ending a long delay since the last OneWeb launch, on Feb. 6.

The nine months since then have seen the company file for bankruptcy at the start of the coronavirus pandemic only to re-emerge under new ownership led by the British government and India's Bharti Global. 

OneWeb is now flying over 100 satellites of a planned 648-bird constellation.

Executive chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal said earlier this month that the company could be able to begin offering its broadband service to customers in high northern latitudes as soon as October 2021.

That would put OneWeb almost exactly a year behind SpaceX, which started a limited beta test of its Starlink satellite broadband service in Canada and the northern US in October of this year. The company says it should be ready to offer global coverage in 2022.

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