The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is gearing up for an important space launch just after midnight on 23 October.
India’s heaviest rocket Launch Vehicle-Mark 3 (LVM3), previously called the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark 3 (GSLV-Mk3), will lift off from the second launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota at 00.07 hours (India time) with 36 broadband satellites from OneWeb.
OneWeb is a low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite communications company from the United Kingdom. The LEO zone stretches up from the Earth’s surface to an altitude of 1,200 km.
This space mission will be LVM3’s fifth flight, which includes India’s second Moon mission Chandrayaan-2, but its first-ever commercial launch.
India has banked on its workhorse polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV) to launch a total of 345 foreign satellites since 1999. The LVM3 can take this figure up to 381 on Sunday.
With the launch of OneWeb satellites, LVM3 will throw its hat into the ring for the international commercial space launch market.
The LVM3-M2 mission will place 36 commercial satellites into LEO, increasing the OneWeb constellation tally to 462 satellites.
At 5,796 kg, the payload will be the highest-ever for any Indian rocket. LVM3 is capable of carrying satellites weighing up to 8,000 kg.
For this mission, OneWeb partnered with NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), a central public sector enterprise under the Government of India’s Department of Space. NSIL is the commercial arm of ISRO.
“Today’s launch of LVM3-M2 mission is extremely significant milestone for NewSpace India Limited as it will open up the big global commercial launch service market for this heavy-lift launcher, especially in the context when many operators world over are looking to build geo satellites as part of constellation for meeting global communication needs,” NSIL chairman and managing director .
“This effort of NewSpace India Limited,” he added, “would go a long way in enhancing India’s market share in the global space economy.”
As for OneWeb, the 23 October launch will take its satellite fleet to over 70 per cent of that required for its purpose of providing internet connectivity around the world next year. The company says it’s currently on track to complete its constellation of 648 satellites in 2023.
OneWeb’s satellites are arranged in 12 orbital planes — with 49 satellites in each plane — 1,200 km above the surface of the Earth. Each satellite in the fleet takes 109 minutes to go around Earth. This will ensure worldwide satellite coverage. The constellation operates in an LEO polar orbit.
India’s Bharti Enterprises is a major investor and shareholder in OneWeb.
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