By: Kimberly Rodrigues
On Sunday (26), Narendra Modi praised the successful launch of 36 internet satellites owned by UK-based OneWeb Group into their intended orbits by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO’s) Launch Vehicle Mark-3 (LVM3), the heaviest rocket.
Modi highlighted that this accomplishment further solidifies India’s position as a leading global commercial launch service provider, aligning with the country’s self-reliance initiative, Aatmanirbharta.
This marks the second dedicated mission by NewSpace India Limited, the commercial branch of ISRO.
The first batch of 36 OneWeb satellites was launched from Sriharikota on October 23 last year.
The second batch of 36 internet satellites has contributed to the current constellation of 582 satellites already owned by OneWeb Group.
The company approached ISRO for the launch of 72 satellites after it had to scrap previous arrangements with Russia’s Soyuz rockets following the Ukraine conflict.
Earlier, a OneWeb spokesperson had said, “We are one launch away from achieving global coverage. This last launch with ISRO/NSIL will mark over 600 satellites in space, which is the number needed to go commercially live.”
ISRO had earlier signed an agreement with Network Access Associates Limited, a OneWeb Group company, to launch a total of 72 satellites into low-earth orbits (LEOs).
OneWeb, backed by Bharti Enterprises, successfully completed its satellite constellation with 618 LEO satellites.
ISRO’s LVM3 launched 36 of these satellites into LEO, enabling OneWeb to provide global broadband internet services from space.
“This is the most significant milestone in the history of OneWeb, as we reach the satellites needed for global coverage,” Neil Masterson, Chief Executive Officer of OneWeb said in a statement.
“I am particularly proud that OneWeb has crossed the threshold to be able to provide its global coverage in India,” Sunil Bharti Mittal, Executive Chairman of One Web said.
On March 9, SpaceX’s Falcon-9 rocket successfully placed 40 OneWeb satellites in orbit.
OneWeb, supported by the British government, Bharti Enterprises, Eutelsat, SoftBank, Hughes Networks, and Hanwha, has launched internet services from space in regions located above 50 degrees north latitude, such as Canada, Greenland, Alaska, UK, and Northern Europe.
The company aims to launch its services in India later this year, pending regulatory approvals, having already obtained the necessary permits, including the GMPCS (global mobile personal communications by satellite services) license from the Department of Telecommunications and permission to establish an earth station.
According to Lt Gen A K Bhatt (retd.), Director General of the Indian Space Association (ISpA), approvals from the Department of Space are still required for space-related permits, which will be clarified with the release of the upcoming space policy.
Additionally, private businesses seeking ISRO approvals will now need to go through Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (INSPACe), the single-window nodal agency for the private sector.
OneWeb provides internet services to wholesale customers, including telecommunications companies, Internet Service Providers, enterprises, and governments, via its satellite constellation.
In contrast, Elon Musk’s SpaceX offers its Starlink service directly to individual users.
(With inputs from PTI)