The recognition by the FSB of the OneWeb satellite communications system as a threat to national security could result in serious losses for Russia. Entering the British project, Roskosmos hoped to get access to the technology of creating small satellites, but now it risks losing the largest foreign customer of launch services in the last decades. The company has already contracted 21 Soyuz launch vehicles and, according to Kommersant’s information, was ready to conclude another deal on at least five Proton missiles, which would have provided substantial support to the Khrunichev Center. The final decision on the fate of OneWeb in Russia, according to Kommersant, can be made by the country's leadership before the end of the year.
On the position of the FSB regarding the OneWeb project, it became known on October 24, when a service representative declared that there were no guarantees “that the satellite communications system is not of intelligence nature and will not be able to harm the interests of the individual and society of the Russian Federation”. He added that the only way to “counter the threats arising from the deployment of foreign satellite communication systems to provide Internet access <...> is to limit their use in the Russian Federation” (quoted by Reuters). In the "Roskosmos" and the office of Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, who oversees the space industry, they refused to comment on "Kommersant", the FSB did not manage to receive a comment.
The OneWeb project was founded by former Google manager Greg Wyler. It is planned to create a network of 882 small spacecraft (each weighing about 150 kg, cost about $ 500 thousand), which should provide high-speed (up to 10 terabits per second) access to the Internet and communication services around the world. The project attracted more than $ 1.7 billion in investments from Airbus Group, Bharti, Coca-Cola, Hughes, Virgin Group, Qualcomm and SoftBank.
In 2017, the joint venture LLC “OneWeb” was established (40% owned by Gonets, 60% - OneWeb Holding Limited). At that time, it was planned that Gonets would sell the OneWeb network resources to Russia, and Roskosmos, by 2021, would launch satellites of the same name on the Soyuz family from the Baikonur (Kazakhstan), Vostochny (Russia) and Kuru (French Guiana) launch sites. ). In total, OneWeb contracted 21 Soyuz with a total value of over $ 1 billion, which was the largest commercial order for Russian launch services (see “Kommersant” dated June 26, 2015). The first of these missiles should deliver a bundle of ten vehicles from Kourou to orbit on February 15, 2019.
According to two federal officials, the disagreements between the departments regarding the project have been going on for over a year and have not yet come to a consensus. The situation is aggravated by the fact that OneWeb will be able to operate in Russia and without its direct participation, the Kommersant interlocutor continues: the system architecture is arranged without an inter-satellite channel, data transmission is carried out via ground stations. If the project is given a green light, such stations could appear in the Central, Siberian and Far Eastern districts. If the project is closed, the stations located in Kazakhstan, Italy, Norway and the USA will suffice to cover the territory of Russia OneWeb. "In this case, there will be a critical problem with the work of SORM (system of operational investigative activities. -" Kommersant "), we simply can not control the network", - the interlocutor of "Kommersant" admits, specifying that after deploying the system in orbit over Russia there are about 100 OneWeb devices. “The conversation is simple: either we are in control of the situation on partnership rights, or we do not control it at all,” confirms the Kommersant’s source in the industry. According to the Kommersant interlocutor, OneWeb also requires the permission of the SCRF to work, but its position is similar to that of the FSB, so there is no need to wait for a positive result.
The position of the security forces puts Roscosmos in an extremely difficult position, say senior federal officials. Firstly, it is not clear how to launch satellites recognized as a threat to national security from Baikonur and Vostochny - there were no similar precedents before. Secondly, the Soyuz-ST missiles used to launch OneWeb with Kuru are structurally different from Soyuz-2.1a and simply cannot be replaced by carriers. Thirdly, hopes for another commercial contract were associated with this project: this time for the Proton missiles under the 5 + 8 scheme (five solid and eight in the option). According to Kommersant’s information, this would give its manufacturer, the Khrunichev Center, not only a 2.5-year load, but also from $ 300 to $ 800 million in profits. For an enterprise whose total debt exceeds 100 billion rubles, this would be a huge help, but in case of non-cooperation, the chances of signing the agreement are reduced to zero. “Roscosmos” was interested in technologies for creating small spacecraft, which could be localized for use in their own projects, but no one will share them without a full-scale partnership, says the Kommersant's source in the industry. In addition, the blow will be dealt to Russia's reputation as a reliable partner in the space sector.