LVM3's second clustered stage L110 being transported to stage preparation facility at SHAR

This was the second mission operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for the OneWeb subsidiary Network Access Associates

Following the successful placement of 36 OneWeb satellites by the Indian space agency's heaviest rocket, the Bharti Enterprises-backed UK firm on Sunday completed its first-generation low earth orbit (LEO) constellation to provide global coverage.

The Launch Vehicle Mark-3 (LVM3)-OneWeb India-2 mission took off at 9.00 am India time from the second launch pad at the iconic Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota (SDSC-SHAR) spaceport off the Andhra Pradesh coast.

The mission completes OneWeb’s network of 618 LEO satellites for providing global broadband connectivity against the initial target of 648 satellites. With a 40 per cent stake, India’s $15 billion Bharti Group is the largest shareholder in the UK-based company.

This was the second mission operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for the OneWeb subsidiary Network Access Associates under a commercial agreement with the NewSpace India Ltd (NSIL) to launch 72 satellites into LEO. NSIL is ISRO’s commercial arm.

The first set of 36 of OneWeb satellites was launched through the LVM3-M2-OneWeb India-1 mission on October 23 last year.

The LVM-3 is actually a repurposed version of the country’s heaviest launch vehicle, Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle Mark-3 (GSLV MK-III), for the deployment of OneWeb’s LEO satellites at an altitude of 1,200 km. The geosynchronous orbit is located much further away at about 36,000 km from the Equator.

The satellites totalling about 5,805 kilos were placed in a 450 km circular orbit with an inclination of 87.4 degrees.

Congratulating his team on a successful launch, chairman ISRO & secretary Department of Space (DoS), Sreedhara Panicker Somanath said, “We look forward to greater engagement with our commercial partners for making this rocket one of the best in its class.”

This was the sixth flight of LVM3 that had five consecutive successful missions, including the Chandrayaan-2 mission.

Chairman of NSIL, Radhakrishnan Durairaj added, “One special thing we saw was the cryogenic stage being used for doing such a complex manoeuvre to meet the requirements of OneWeb. This extremely challenging stuff was repeated in the second mission.”

Reacting to the successful launch, a jubilant founder & chairperson of Bharti Enterprises and executive chairperson, Sunil Bharti Mittal said that with it OneWeb had crossed the threshold to be able to provide its global coverage in India.

“In my work, I have seen the power of connectivity to bring benefits to all, wherever they are. Yet half the world’s population does not have access to fast, reliable connectivity. Today’s launch represents a major step towards closing the digital divide,” noted Mittal in a statement.

Agreeing with him, the director general of the Indian Space Association (ISpA), Lt Gen. AK Bhatt (Retd) said the launch would help in bridging the digital divide by addressing the issue of low fixed band penetration in the country’s remotest areas.

“This launch is a significant milestone for India to move towards benefiting from remarkable capabilities of LEO connectivity and the spread of space-based internet,” observed Bhatt.

The 150-kilogram satellites were deployed in 12 planes separated by a 4 km altitude to prevent a collision. Four satellites each were ejected sequentially in nine steps.