Video Shows Russian Rocket Removed From Launch Pad After OneWeb Cuts Ties Amid Ukraine Invasion

A Russian rocket that was primed and ready to launch a batch of internet satellites into space has now been removed from the launch pad after a tense spat between Russia's space agency and OneWeb, the company which owns the satellites.

OneWeb is aiming to provide a global internet network for use by governments and businesses through the use of 650 satellites in Earth orbit. Headquartered in London, it is partially owned by the U.K. government as well as private firms, including India's Bharti Global.

In recent years OneWeb has worked with Russia's Roscosmos space agency to launch its satellites into space, using the country's workhorse Soyuz rocket.

Another such launch was planned for this week, which would have delivered 36 of OneWeb's satellites into orbit. However, the future of the launch was thrown into question following Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

With Russia facing widespread condemnation over its attack on Ukraine, the U.K. government had come under pressure to call off the OneWeb launch regardless of whether payments had already been made to Russia for its services.

The launch was further imperilled when Roscosmos demanded on March 2 that it would only go through with it if OneWeb provided a guarantee that the satellites would not be used for military purposes.

The agency also demanded that the U.K. government sell its share in the company.

Neither of these demands ended up being met by the deadline set by Roscosmos. Kwasi Kwarteng, the U.K.'s business and energy secretary, tweeted: "There's no negotiation on OneWeb: the U.K. government is not selling its share."

OneWeb tweeted on March 3 that its board had voted to suspend all launches from the Baikonur cosmodrome used by Russia, and on Friday morning Roscosmos announced that it was to "stop all launches of Russian rockets in the interests of OneWeb" and cited a lack of assurance that the satellites would not be used for military purposes.

On Twitter, Roscosmos showed live footage of the Soyuz-2.1b rocket that had been vertical on the launch pad in anticipation of the OneWeb launch being taken down and transported back to an assembly facility.

It is now unclear which launch provider OneWeb will use to transport its satellites into space in future.

Roscosmos has become increasingly and rapidly isolated as a result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The agency's director, Dmitry Rogozin, has been outspoken in support of Russia's actions and has suggested that Russian cosmonauts could leave the International Space Station—an unprecedented move in human spaceflight—as a result of U.S. sanctions.

Experts recently told Newsweek that NASA may be able to operate the ISS solo if it came to that.

In addition, Roscosmos tweeted on Thursday that it would not cooperate with Germany on joint experiments in the Russian segment of the space station.

Soyuz rocket
A photo shows the boosters of a Soyuz rocket during preparations for the ninth OneWeb launch scheduled for August, 2021. OneWeb and Roscosmos have cut ties amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine. OneWeb/Roscosmos/TsENKI