A batch of 36 satellites for the OneWeb satellite constellation, which is intended to provide global broadband Internet service to individual consumers, arrived at the Satish Dhawan Space Center (SDSC-SHAR) ahead of a planned launch from Sriharikota, India, in October. With this launch, OneWeb will have more than 70% of its planned Gen 1 LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellites in orbit as it moves forward to provide high-speed, low-latency connectivity services around the world.
It may be recalled that OneWeb partnered with New Space India Limited (NSIL), the commercial arm of the Indian space agency ISRO, to facilitate this launch. The launch will be the company’s 14th overall and the satellites will be put into orbit by the heaviest ISRO rocket, the GSLV (Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle) Mark 3 from the Satish Dhawan Space Center. An additional launch will take place this year and three more are planned for early next year to complete the constellation.
ISRO comes to OneWeb’s rescue
Finally, we are restarting releases @OneWeb Just 6 months ago, we were forced to suspend releases. Today our satellites arrived in India to be launched by a GSLV rocket. GO @OneWeb @isro pic.twitter.com/hFSop3DSEBSeptember 19, 2022
The GSLV Mark 3 is India’s largest rocket and can carry around 9,000 kilograms for LEO, comparable to the Russian Soyuz vehicles that European launch provider Arianespace was using to deploy the OneWeb constellation – before sanctions hit it after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
OneWeb was forced to cancel its releases after that, but thanks to its bond with ISRO, in just six months it is now ready for a new release. OneWeb also entered into an agreement with SpaceX to resume satellite launches. But that is yet to happen.
The GSLV Mark 3 is a three-stage, medium-sized launch vehicle developed by ISRO and intended to be a commercial launch vehicle for missions under India’s Human Space Flight Program. India last launched a GSLV Mark 3 in 2019 as part of the country’s Chandrayaan-2 lunar exploration mission.
This would be the inaugural launch of the GSLV Mark 3 for a commercial mission. Notably, India has primarily used its PSLV rocket to orbit customer satellites.
Neil Masterson, CEO of OneWeb, said: “We are proud of our ability to adapt and stay on track to provide global connectivity in the hardest-to-reach places. With many thanks to our top-tier partners ISRO and NSIL, as well as our shareholder Bharti Global for their continued management, we were able to facilitate this next pioneering launch in Sriharikota India.”
Radhakrishnan D, President and Managing Director of NewSpace India Limited, said: “Undertaking the launch of 36 OneWeb satellites aboard India’s GSLV-Mark 3 is a historic moment for NSIL and ISRO.”
Bharti Enterprises, a major investor and shareholder in OneWeb, this year announced a distribution partnership with Hughes Communications India Private Ltd (HCIPL). OneWeb will connect local and regional cities, towns and municipalities in hard-to-reach areas, thus playing a critical role in bridging the digital divide across India.
As part of the ‘Space Reforms’ announced by the government in June 2020, NSIL was mandated to carry out operational satellite missions in a ‘demand driven’ model, in which it has responsibility for building, launching, owning and operating the satellites and provide services to customers.