OneWeb’s selection of SpaceX to finish launching the rest of the OneWeb constellation may seem counterintuitive at first since OneWeb and SpaceX are both providing satellite internet services. However, this deal makes sense to our SpaceWorks Commercial & Advisory team given OneWeb’s current position after losing their launch opportunities on Russian Soyuz rockets.
SpaceNews laid out OneWeb’s launch dilemma very clearly. Besides SpaceX and the Chinese Long March rockets, all high cadence & reliable heavy lift vehicles are being phased out as new, unproven vehicles finish development. Small launch vehicles are an option but would require significantly more launches to complete the constellation.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 presents OneWeb with the fastest & probably cheapest option to finish their constellation. And at the moment, the companies are technically addressing separate commercial markets (Starlink for individual consumers and OneWeb for businesses and more niche applications) and aren’t directly competing… yet. These launches should be well behind us by the time they really start competing though and OneWeb having a complete constellation in place sooner rather later makes for a better business model, regardless of who puts their satellites up there.