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OneWeb Successfully Launch 36 LEO Broadband Satellites from India

Sunday, Oct 23rd, 2022 (6:05 am) - Score 888
Oneweb-India-LEO-Broadband-Satellite-Rocket-Launching

British satellite operator OneWeb, which is partly owned by the UK Government, has confirmed their return to flight after successfully launching 36 of their compact Low Earth Orbit (LEO) based ultrafast broadband satellites aboard a LVM3 rocket from the NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) facility in Sriharikota, India.

The operator has previously lofted 428 of their small c.150kg LEO based ultrafast (100Mbps+) and low-latency (sub-100ms) broadband satellites into space – orbiting at an altitude of around 1,200km – and their initial plan is to build a constellation of 648 (588 for coverage and the rest are for redundancy), which is enough for a reasonable level of global coverage. This is now due to complete by the end of 2023.

NOTE: The former moniker of the three-stage LVM3 class rocket was GSLV-MkIII.

The project had been going well, but a lot of their prior launches were taking place in Russia, and that ended in March 2022 after the invasion of Ukraine set off a chain of events that continues to unfold (here). The operator ended up taking a £200m hit after Russia blocked further launches and impounded a batch of 36 satellites (here), which left OneWeb scrambling to find new launch partners.

As previously reported, OneWeb found its solution by working with SpaceX (here) – they operate the rival Starlink network – and New Space India Limited (here), which is the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Suffice to say that a lot was riding on their first return to flight going without a hitch (mission “LVM3 – M2/OneWeb India-1“), but luckily it seems to have gone well.

The lift-off took place on Sunday, 23rd October 2022 at 00.07hrs local time. OneWeb’s satellites separated successfully from the rocket and were dispensed in 9 phases over a period of 1 hour and 15 minutes, with signal acquisition on all 36 satellites confirmed.

Neil Masterson, CEO of OneWeb, said:

“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 6T payloads for LEO.

The mission is very critical to meet the customer’s expectations to launch 36 satellites in 9 phases with precision. The mission was designed in such a way that C25 stage was to handle this operation using in-house built inertial navigation systems. The injection of the satellites were so precise to the expectation of the customer. NSIL, the commercial arm of ISRO, entered into this contract and executed the same in a record time.

This will pave way for more launches in the future. The interaction with OneWeb was so seamless, right from the receipt of the satellites till injection. ISRO and OneWeb teams worked like a family. I compliment all the ISRO centres and Indian industries for the commendable job and congratulate NSIL and OneWeb for the successful launch of LVM3 M2 / OneWeb India-1 mission.”

The successful launch, which is estimated to have cost between $46m to $62m, sets the table for further launches from India in the very near future and pushes their orbital population to 462 (more than 70% of the LEOs required for global coverage). One additional launch will then take place this year, and three more are targeted for early next year to help complete the constellation.

The launch was also significant for the ISRO, since it was their first requested commercial launch. We should add that Bharti Enterprises of India is a major shareholder and investor in OneWeb.

NOTE: OneWeb’s commercial service initially serves parts of the UK, Alaska, Canada, Northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland, and the Arctic seas – albeit focused on government, maritime, aviation and enterprise. Community and mobile connectivity for homes will come later, via partner ISPs like BT (here) and Eutelsat (KONNECT).
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Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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