Moscow (AFP)

A Russian Soyuz rocket, operated by the European Arianespace, on Tuesday launched 34 new satellites from the British operator Oneweb, which is deploying a constellation to provide high-speed internet everywhere in the world.

The rocket lifted off at 6:07 p.m. GMT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, according to images broadcast live by the Russian space agency Roscosmos.

"The launch went smoothly," commented its director, Dmitry Rogozin, on Telegram messaging.

This is the sixth launch of OneWeb satellites this year, three weeks after that of August 23.

A total of 322 satellites will now be in orbit for this constellation.

OneWeb, owned by the British government with the Indian Bharti, foresees an operational global internet at the end of 2022 thanks to a network of 650 satellites.

Under a contract with the European Arianespace confirmed in September 2020, 16 Soyuz shots are scheduled between December 2020 and the end of 2022 to complete the network.

Several projects with a view to setting up constellations providing space and a global internet are in progress.

The American billionaire Elon Musk, head of the space company SpaceX, has already put into orbit for this purpose more than 1,500 satellites to create the Starlink network.

Amazon founder American Jeff Bezos has a similar project called Kuiper.

Russia wants to stay in the space race.

On Thursday, Roscosmos welcomed the "fifth fully commercial launch from the Vostochny Cosmodrome", inaugurated in 2016, the construction of which has been peppered with countless corruption scandals and delays.

Located in the Far East, near the Chinese border, this cosmodrome will eventually replace that of Baikonur, which Moscow has rented to Kazakhstan since the fall of the USSR in 1991.

© 2021 AFP

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