In response to Western sanctions following the invasion of Ukraine, Russia requested that the United Kingdom relinquish its investment in satellite company OnsWeb Ltd., threatening to postpone a launch slated for this Saturday if it doesn’t.
In a post on its official Twitter page, the Kremlin space agency, Roscosmos, issued an ultimatum, blaming Britain’s unfriendly approach against Russia for the situation.
Cancellation of a rocket launch is an obstacle to creating a constellation of satellites
Roscosmos also wanted guarantees from the United Kingdom that OneWeb satellites would not be utilized for military reasons, and set a March 4 deadline for a response.
OneWeb intends to launch satellites from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur cosmodrome using a Soyuz-2.1b rocket built by Airanespace SA, a French firm. The launch has been canceled by Russia, the spacecraft’s supplier.
The postponement of this week’s launch could stymie the company’s efforts to establish a 648-spacecraft first constellation and recruit clients, particularly lucrative military contracts, in order to recover billions of pounds spent by shareholders.
However, UK business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng stated that there were no conversations on OneWeb and that the UK government had no plans to sell its interest.
The government was concerned about OneWeb’s links to Russia, according to British opposition MP Darren Jones, who leads the parliamentary business committee.