OneWeb, a UK based global communications company, has succesfully sent its first six initial satellites into low-earth orbit, one of which is expected to provide broadband internet to remote schools in Rwanda.
Billionare Richard Branson of Virgin Group, top managers of Soft Bank of Japan, Airbus leaders, and other several dignitaries, including French ministers were in presence to witness the launch of OneWeb's initial satellites.
The rocket that had the six satellites was launched at exactly 23:38 at the Atlantic coast of the French Guiana space centre, a space port mostly used by the European Union.
The launch occured in French Guiana because rockets generally launch over open water around the Equator and to the east.
So the main European launch site is French Guiana while USA launches from southern Florida.
The flight director at the mission control centre in French Guiana announced it will head north of the Atlantic towards the Caribbean and he assured the flight will go as planned.
#Rwanda and @OneWeb partner to launch #Icyerekezo satellite (named by students from Nkombo Island), to connect schools in remote areas to the internet. Please watch the launch live @rbarwanda on Wednesday 27/02/2019, at 23:37. #InternetForSchools pic.twitter.com/4SnQvMKncD— MINICT | Rwanda (@RwandaICT) February 26, 2019
What was telecast live are the three stages of separation of the rocket that carried six satellites.
But the satellites will continue their path and be dropped after 1000 km and they will be stationed separately, with the ability for each to send signals to control towers on earth, allowing OneWeb to distribute broadband to different countries.
By 23:50, the satellites had already moved over 3,340 km.
Groupe Scolaire St Pierre Nkombo, located on Nkombo Island in the middle of Lake Kivu, will be the first beneficiary of the broadband connectivity that one of the satellites, nicknamed Icyerekezo, will provide.
Like many other schools in rural areas where it's hard to extend standard network fibre, students at St. Pierre Nkombo previously had no to access to internet, making it impossible for them to fully utilise the available ICT tools that the government rolled out to facilitate learning.
Launching #Icyerekezo tonight is a symbol of #Rwanda’s continued efforts in spearheading uptake and adoption of technologies for sustainable development in the country and on the continent. Follow live feed tonight @rbarwanda at 23:37 pic.twitter.com/eWf9aKf278— MINICT | Rwanda (@RwandaICT) February 27, 2019
The Ministry of ICT and Innovation estimats that it would take about USD2 billion to extend traditional fibre network to Nkombo.
With the help of the satellite, they say, the cost of internet connectivity will significantly be brought down.
The ministry did not however mention the commercial details of the partnership.
The ministry had first publicly announced the launch of the satellite on Tuesday, saying it will not only connect rural schools but also enable other services to underserved communities.
Rwanda plans the launch of other satellite into the orbit before the end of this year in partnership with the Japanese government.