Sunil Mittal, chairman of Bharti Enterprises. (Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

A French company backed by the government has invested $550 million in British space internet company OneWeb to challenge Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Eutelsat has paid $550m (£395m) for a 24 per cent stake in OneWeb, which was rescued by the British government last year in a joint venture with Indian telecoms giant Bharti owned by Indian entrepreneur Sunil Bharti Mittal.

The French government has a 20 per cent stake in Eutelsat and the deal is expected to be a fillip for OneWeb as it seeks European support for its satellite internet business due to go live later this year, reported The Telegraph.

OneWeb has been fighting a heated regulatory battle with SpaceX over the latter’s efforts to launch thousands of tiny satellites into space for its Starlink internet service, the report added.

SpaceX, which is run by Tesla chief Elon Musk, has recently won approval from America’s communications watchdog to send 2,814 satellites into orbit at a significantly lower altitude than previously planned.

OneWeb and others had objected to the plans, saying they might interfere with other satellite networks and increased the risk of dangerous space collisions, The Telegraph report added.

Eutelsat’s investment comes after the UK government and Bharti each paid $500m to rescue OneWeb from bankruptcy last year. The deal is expected to be approved in the second half of this year.