India orbits 36 OneWeb satellites
October 24, 2022
By Chris Forrester
A giant Indian rocket successfully placed 36 much-needed OneWeb broadband communication satellites into orbit in the early hours (00.07 India time) of October 23rd.
The rocket, India’s Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) heaviest, marked a significant milestone for the India space agency as the vehicle carried the heaviest payload of 5,796 kgs. This was the maiden dedicated commercial mission for the launch vehicle.
ISRO will repeat the launch exercise in early 2023 with another batch of satellites for OneWeb.
This is OneWeb’s 14th launch, bringing the constellation to 462 satellites. This launch means that more than 70 per cent of its planned 648 Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite fleet that will deliver high-speed, low-latency connectivity worldwide, are now in place.
Initial reports say that all the satellites are healthy. OneWeb’s satellites separated successfully from the rocket and were dispensed in nine phases over a period of 1 hour and 15 minutes, with signal acquisition on all 36 satellites confirmed.
“With only four more launches to go, OneWeb remains on track to activate global coverage in 2023, while its connectivity solutions are already live in regions north of 50-degrees latitude,” said a statement following the launch.
“This partnership with New Space India Ltd [NSIL, the commercial contractor] and ISRO demonstrates OneWeb’s commitment to provide connectivity across the length and breadth of India by 2023. From Ladakh to Kanyakumari and Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh, OneWeb will bring secured solutions not only to enterprises but also to towns, villages, municipalities, and schools, including the hardest-to-reach areas across the country. OneWeb’s commitment to enhance connectivity in India is backed by Bharti Global, its largest investor,” the statement added.
Sunil Bharti Mittal, Executive Chairman of OneWeb, said: “Today’s launch is a significant milestone for OneWeb. This new phase of our launch programme from India brings us a step closer to not only enhancing our global coverage but also delivering connectivity in India and South Asia, particularly to the communities who need it most. I am proud to be here in Sriharikota, with our partners, ISRO and NSIL. Today my dream of having an Indian element in the OneWeb constellation has been realised. This launch with ISRO and NSIL opens up the space sector in India with the possibility of billions of dollars flowing into the country.”
Neil Masterson, CEO at OneWeb, commented: “I am delighted that we have been able to resume OneWeb’s launch programme. This launch was made possible thanks to the hard work by our team and our partners at ISRO and NSIL, as well as shareholder Bharti Global. The spirit of collaboration exemplified by this international effort is at the core of our strategy to scale up our global coverage network. At OneWeb, we remain laser-focused on removing barriers to connectivity, ensuring that we deliver for communities and customers globally.”
Shri. Somanath S, Secretary, Department of Space and Chairman, ISRO said: “Today’s event is very historic to the country and the Indian Space Programme. This is the first ever commercial launch of LVM3 with a heaviest payload to LEO. The LVM3 was conceived primarily for launching geo-stationary satellites with a payload capacity of 4T, which can be used for launching 6 tonnes payloads for low Earth orbit.”