India successfully launches major rocket with 36 satellites from UK firm OneWeb

This is the first such liftoff of communication satellites for London-based OneWeb halted by the war in Ukraine

Arpan Rai
Monday 24 October 2022 01:08 BST
Indian space agency launch rocket with 36 satellites from UK firm

India has successfully carried out a major rocket launch with 36 private internet satellites onboard for a space project that had been halted by the war in Ukraine.

The launch of the broadband communication satellites early on Sunday was carried out from southern India’s spaceport island Sriharikota, and marked the first such operation for London-based satellite internet firm OneWeb after it stopped working with the Russian space agency in March after the invasion of Ukraine.

“Fantastic news as we are delighted to report we have made contact with all 36 satellites from #OneWebLaunch14! This means we now have over 70 per cent of our LEO satellite fleet in orbit,” OneWeb said on Twitter.

OneWeb also shared a still image of the launch where the rocket is seen within seconds of liftoff, rising above a blast of flames and plumes of smoke.

“We have accomplished the orbit very accurately, now the rocket is in its intended orbit,” said S Somanath, chairperson of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the national space agency.

Of the total 36 satellites, 16 satellites have been separated from the rocket and placed into their respective orbits. The remaining satellites, Mr Somanath said, “will get separated as safely as the first 16”.

Catchily dubbed the “LVM3 - M2/OneWeb India-1 Mission”, the spacecraft used is India’s heaviest rocket and is normally reserved for government missions. The liftoff was scheduled at 12.07am local time on Sunday.

The LVM3 is a three-stage vehicle with two solid motor strap-ons, a liquid propellant core stage and a cryogenic stage.

With this latest launch, OneWeb has now placed 462 satellites in space to provide broadband services around the world.

The communications giant has said that it is on track to activate global coverage next year with a planned constellation of 648 satellites despite suffering a major setback from the war in Europe.

OneWeb is already providing services in the northernmost latitudes.

An individual OneWeb satellite weighs in at 150kg (about 330 pounds).

Sunday’s launch was OneWeb’s 14th, with the last 13 carried out using Russian rockets. The first launch was held in 2019.

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