ISRO’s Commercial Arm NSIL Launches 36 OneWeb Broadband Satellites Aboard Heaviest Rocket LVM3

Science

OneWeb on Sunday announced the successful deployment of 36 satellites launched by ISRO’s commercial arm NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. 

Bharti Global is the largest investor in OneWeb, a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite communications company.

This latest launch by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and NSIL marks one of the biggest commercial orders by India’s premier space organisation, and the first using the LVM3 rocket, OneWeb said in a statement.

OneWeb said it is committed to providing connectivity across the length and breadth of India by 2023.

“36 OneWeb satellites successfully launched by ISRO/ NSIL from Sriharikota,” the statement said.

On the successful deployment, OneWeb said this is the 14th launch and the second this year. This brings the total of OneWeb’s constellation to 462 satellites, representing more than 70 percent of its planned 648 Low Earth Orbit satellite fleet that will deliver high-speed, low-latency connectivity globally.

“With only four more launches to go, OneWeb remains on track to activate global coverage by 2023, while its connectivity solutions are already live in regions north of 50-degrees latitude,” the statement added.

The teaming up with NSIL and ISRO demonstrates OneWeb’s commitment to provide connectivity across the length and breadth of India by 2023, it said.

The LVM3 launch vehicle, realised with complete indigenised technology, had four consecutive successful missions, which includes the critical Chandrayaan-2 mission. The vehicle underwent several critical tests as a part of human rating for Gaganyaan programme. The cryo stage was designed to orient and re-orient in orthogonal direction to meet the customer requirements of injecting satellites precisely and with a gap to avoid collision. The vehicle was realised in a short span of time on demand driven basis to meet the user’s timeline.

Somanath S, Secretary, Department of Space and Chairman, ISRO described the event as one “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 mission is very critical to meet the customer’s expectations to launch 36 satellites in 9 phases with precision,” Somanath said.

OneWeb Executive Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal said the launch is a significant milestone for the company.

“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,” Mittal said.

Over the coming months, OneWeb will continue its focus on the launch programme and will also work with key distribution partners and customers to roll out connectivity solutions where its services are live.

The broadband-from-space services are being touted as the next frontier in the India’s growing communications market.

The stage is all set for some high-voltage action as big names like Jio and OneWeb gear up for a slice of the lucrative satellite-based broadband services market in India. Nelco and Telesat too have completed successful LEO demonstrations in the country for enterprise, telecom and government sectors.

The broadband-from-space segment is also being keenly watched by tech billionaire Elon Musk‘s SpaceX Starlink and Amazon‘s Project Kuiper.


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