(ORDO NEWS) — OneWeb has signed a deal to use India‘s largest launch vehicle to launch at least some of its remaining broadband satellites this year, according to an executive at the company.
The UK-based startup said in a brief press release on April 20 that it had reached an agreement with New Space India Limited, a commercial arm of the Indian space agency ISRO, which covers launches from the Satish Dhawan Space Center for an undisclosed number of satellites.
“The first launch from New Space India is expected in 2022 from SHAR’s Satish Dhawan Space Center (SDSC), Sriharikota. These launches will add to OneWeb’s total orbital constellation of 428 satellites, representing 66 percent of the planned total fleet,” it said in a statement. OneWeb statement.
Chris McLaughlin, Head of Government, Compliance and Engagement at OneWeb, said the company plans to use an Indian Geosynchronous Satellite (GSLV) launch vehicle.
He declined to reveal further details.
The GSLV Mark 3 is India’s largest rocket, capable of lifting about 9,000 kilograms into low Earth orbit, comparable to the Russian Soyuz rockets that European launch provider Arianespace used to deploy the OneWeb constellation – before they were sanctioned after the special military operation of Russia in Ukraine.
India last launched a GSLV Mark 3 rocket in 2019 as part of the Chandrayaan-2 lunar exploration mission.
The missile has about twice the payload capacity of the GSLV Mark 2, which hasn’t flown since August 2021, when the mission ended in failure.
The last successful launch of the GSLV Mark 2 took place in December 2018, when the rocket launched ISRO’s GSAT-7A communications satellite into orbit.
Resumption of launches
Using a Soyuz 2.1b launch vehicle, Arianespace was able to launch 34-36 OneWeb satellites in a single launch.
OneWeb planned to use six more Soyuz rockets this year to expand its services around the world, but was forced to put a hold on launches on March 4 to find alternative rockets.
With only 66% of the planned constellation of 648 satellites in orbit, OneWeb activated communications services only in part of the Northern Hemisphere.
OneWeb said on March 21 that it had reached an agreement with US company SpaceX that would allow the operator to resume launches this year. However, details, including the timing and number of satellites involved, have yet to be announced.
It is unclear if OneWeb will be able to launch a satellite from India before SpaceX in the US.
Last October, well before the collapse of OneWeb’s plans to complete its Soyuz deployment by mid-2022, OneWeb announced a non-binding letter of intent with NewSpace India Limited to launch its satellites on the GSLV Mark 3 and the Polar medium-range launch vehicle. Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) as early as 2022.
At the time, the agreement was seen as laying the groundwork for a possible future launch of at least part of the second-generation OneWeb grouping.
India is also developing a light-lift missile called the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV), which India Today reports is due to launch its first launch in July-September after delays.
Although OneWeb is based in London and has the British government as a shareholder, Indian conglomerate Bharti Global owns the largest stake in the company.
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