The LVM3-M2, the heaviest rocket of the Indian Space Research Organisation, on its maiden commercial mission on Sunday successfully placed 36 broadband communication satellites of a UK-based customer into the intended orbits, the space agency said, describing the mission as ‘historic’.
OneWeb Ltd is the UK-based customer of NewSpace India Ltd (NSIL), ISRO’s commercial arm, and a global communication network powered from space, enabling internet connectivity for governments and businesses. Bharti Enterprises is one of the major investors in OneWeb.
London-based satellite communications company Network Access Associated Limited (OneWeb) said its partnership with ISRO and the space agency’s commercial arm NSIL demonstrated its commitment to provide connectivity across the length and breadth of India by 2023.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi lauded ISRO and other stakeholders for the success.
“Congratulations @NSIL_India @INSPACeIND @ISRO on the successful launch of our heaviest launch vehicle LVM3 with 36 OneWeb satellites meant for global connectivity. LVM3 exemplifies Atmanirbharta & enhances India’s competitive edge in the global commercial launch service market,” he said.
With Sunday’s success, ISRO put behind the anomaly experienced in its August 7 Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) mission, that had then made the satellites unusable due to orbital issues.
Early on Sunday, a beaming ISRO Chairman S Somanath announced Deepavali had started early for the scientists at the space agency.
“LVM3 M2/OneWeb India-1 mission is completed successfully. All the 36 satellites have been placed into intended orbits. @NSIL_India @OneWeb,” ISRO said in a tweet, minutes after Somanath announced that 16 satellites have been placed in the desired orbits while the rest would take some more time.
All the 36 satellites were injected into the orbits around 75 minutes after the rocket blasted off from the Sriharikota spaceport at 12.07 am.
Addressing the gathering at the Mission Control Centre, Somanath said the festival celebrations started at Satish Dhawan Space Centre as LVM3 and its very first commercial mission have accomplished the orbit very accurately.
“Now the rocket has entered into the orbit, 16 satellites out of the 36 satellites have been already injected. I wanted to tell you that this is a slow process of separating the satellites. The data of the separation of the remaining 20 satellites will come little later and mission operations of observing this separation is continuing”, he said earlier. ISRO later confirmed the desired objective of the mission has been met.
Former ISRO chiefs K Sivan and A S Kiran Kumar and Bharti Enterprises founder-chairman Sunil Mittal among others witnessed the launch from the Mission Control Centre.
Terming the mission as ‘historic’, Somanath, also the Secretary, Department of Space credited Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s support for the mission’s success.
“Congratulations to the entire launch vehicle team for grabbing the opportunity and making it ready today for the historic mission. I also want to thank the OneWeb team for having confidence in us to host the LVM3…we are very hopeful that the next mission of LVM3 will do the same to place the remaining 36 satellites it has been contracted by NSIL”, he said.
NSIL Chairman and Managing Director D Radhakrishnan, complementing the ISRO team for a ‘commendable’ mission of LVM3 said, “the three major stakeholders to this particular mission the NSIL, ISRO and OneWeb India, have shown the entire world how to contract and execute the mission in less than three to four months.”
According to OneWeb, it will bring secured solutions not only to enterprises but also to towns, villages, municipalities and schools, including the hardest-to-reach areas across the length and breadth of the country.
“OneWeb’s commitment to enhance connectivity in India is backed by Bharti Global, its largest investor,” the company said in a statement.
“This launch by ISRO and NSIL is one of the biggest commercial orders by India’s premier space organisation, and the first using the LVM3 rocket,” OneWeb noted.
OneWeb’s satellites separated successfully from the rocket and were dispensed in nine phases over a period of one hour and 15 minutes, with signal acquisition on all 36 satellites confirmed.
This is OneWeb’s 14th launch, bringing the constellation to 462 satellites. This launch represents more than 70 per cent of its planned 648 low earth orbit (LEO) satellite fleet that it said will deliver high-speed, low-latency connectivity worldwide.
With only four more launches to go, the company said it remains on track to activate global coverage in 2023, while its connectivity solutions are already live in certain regions of the globe.
Mittal said today’s launch is a significant milestone for OneWeb.
“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 communities who need it most,” he said.
“Today, my dream of having an Indian element in the OneWeb constellation has been realised. This launch with ISRO and NSIL opens up the space sector in India with the possibility of billions of dollars flowing into the country,” he added.
Earlier, at the end of a 24-hour countdown, the 43.5 metre tall rocket soared majestically in the prefixed time on Sunday from the second launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota.
The vehicle is also dubbed as one of the heaviest for its ability to carry satellites up to 8,000 kg.
Image Credit: Shutterstock
Sunday’s mission marks several key milestones as the LVM3-M2 mission is the maiden dedicated commercial mission for the launch vehicle. It carried the heaviest payloads with 36 satellites of OneWeb, becoming the first Indian rocket with a payload of 5,796 kg.
Mission Director Thaddeus Baskar said, “the mission was a demand given to this team by ISRO Chairman to execute the mission in a very short time of less than three months.”
The launch is also first for LVM3-M2 to place the satellites in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO-up to 1,200 kms above the Earth) unlike Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).
ISRO scientists had renamed the launch vehicle as LVM3-M2 from GSLV-Mk III as the newest rocket is capable of launching 4,000 kg class of satellites into GTO and 8,000 kg of payloads into LEO.
The LVM3-M2 mission would give a fillip to the space agency with the new launch vehicle set to place satellites into the low earth orbit, along with ISRO’s trusted workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).
The rocket is a three-stage launch vehicle consisting of two solid propellant S200 strap-ons on its sides and core stage comprising L110 liquid stage and C25 cryogenic stage.