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OneWeb talks India launches

July 12, 2022

OneWeb says that an upcoming launch of batches of its satellites on Indian rockets will help speed the deployment of its broadband-by-satellite service in India.

OneWeb, backed in part by Bharti Group and the UK government, admitted that its launch schedule had been impacted by the Russia-Ukraine war but hoped to recover some of the inevitable delays by using rockets from India’s space centre in Sriharikota.

Sriharikota is a barrier island off the Bay of Bengal coast located in Andhra Pradesh, India. It houses the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, one of the two satellite launch centres in India.

OneWeb had 36 of its satellites confiscated by Russia ahead of a planned launch from Baikonur in Kazakhstan. The satellite operator, and Arianespace which is its contracted launch supplier, has been forced to find alternate launch suppliers. Arianespace had originally wanted to use Russia’s Soyuz rockets to launch the OneWeb fleet.

Two-thirds (428 out of 638) of the OneWeb constellation is already in orbit.

The first Indian launch will happen later this year, although there is yet to be confirmation as to how many subsequent Indian launches have been ordered.

“OneWeb has already been granted the NLD (national long distance) and GMPCS (global mobile personal communications by satellite services) licences for delivering satellite broadband services in India, and it expects to receive the other necessary approvals (read: landing rights or market access) shortly,” OneWeb said in a statement to Indian journalists.

Recent comments from Maurizio Vanotti, VP/space infrastructure development and partnerships at OneWeb, explained that new launch agreements with SpaceX and NewSpace India Ltd. (NSIL) would allow the company to launch the remaining satellites of its first-generation system by the second quarter of 2023.

“Our plan is to be back on the launch pad in quarter four (Q4/2022), after the summer, and to complete deployment of the constellation by quarter two next year,” he said, adding that it will take several months after that final launch for the satellites to move to their operational orbits.

OneWeb had announced the Indian launch agreement on April 20th with NSIL, the commercial arm of the Indian space agency ISRO, for launches of OneWeb satellites. Vanotti confirmed that NSIL will launch those satellites on the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark 3, the most powerful version of the GSLV but one that has not launched since 2019. He did not disclose how many launches that contract included.

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