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10 Jan, 2019 08:45

Russian space chief says security people too twitchy about OneWeb global internet project

Russian space chief says security people too twitchy about OneWeb global internet project

The Russian Security Service (FSB) is overcautious about OneWeb, a global satellite internet provider, the Russian space chief believes. Russia’s space industry will be launching some of the satellites for the project.

OneWeb intends to provide global access to broadband internet via a constellation of hundreds of satellites in low-Earth orbit. Its access to the Russian market, however, has been difficult, as Russian security officials have expressed concern that the satellites may endanger national security.

According to Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos), the FSB leadership is overcautious and their position would result in Russia’s exclusion from the project, which will go online with or without Russia’s help.

“I understand why our colleagues from the FSB are skeptical. It’s their job to be skeptical. But we have to realize that this constellation will be created whether we want it or not,” he told RBC news website.

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Russia may deny OneWeb access to its territory for building ground infrastructure, but cannot force its neighbors to do the same, Rogozin pointed out.

“We will simply drop out of this project and will have no way to influence it or control how it works,” he warned.

It would be better if it were created with our participation.

Russian is providing launch vehicles to place some of the OneWeb satellites into orbit. Russian space producers may also become involved in producing them. Considering the large number required, Russia would gain useful experience making communications satellites in bulk, as opposed to doing so in small series or individually, as is usually the case, Rogozin said.

The FSB’s complaints about OneWeb focus on the fact that Russia has no way to ensure that the constellation would not be used for surveillance purposes. It will also compete with Russian domestic internet providers, both traditional ground-based and a potential space-based counterpart for OneWeb. The agency said that if Russia were to take part in an international collaboration to provide satellite internet access, it should do so with countries friendly to Russia.

Objections to OneWeb have also come from telecommunications watchdog RKN, which said it would have no way of enforcing restrictions on access to content as mandated by law once the constellation is operational.

OneWeb and Roscosmos have a joint enterprise which was established in 2017 with the goal of streamlining Russia’s participation in the project. According to Rogozin, Russia is considering buying a greater share in the company, from 40 percent to over 50 percent. The joint company is currently seeking a broadband license necessary to operate OneWeb equipment in Russia.

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