SRIHARIKOTA: The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) successfully placed 36 OneWeb satellites, meant to offer global internet service, using its heaviest rocket – Launch Vehicle Mark 3 (LVM3 or GSLV Mk-3) – for the first time past midnight on Sunday in a 1.5-hour long launch.
The launcher lifted off from the second launch pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota at 12.07am. It is the first multi-satellite mission to the low earth orbit (LEO) with the heaviest payload of 5,796kg on LVM3 till date. With this launch, LVM3 made its entry into the global commercial launch service market.
Around 20 minutes after lift off, the rocket successfully placed 36 OneWeb satellites into a circular low earth orbit of 601-km altitude.
After separation of the first four batches of 16 satellites from the rocket, which could be seen from Sriharikota, Isro chairman S Somanath said, “We have started Diwali celebrations already. Now the rocket is on its intended path.”
“Sixteen out of 36 satellites have been placed in the desired orbit as expected. This is a slow process, the satellite separation. It will take a long time. The rest of the 20 satellites will be separated and we won’t be able to see it from here. But we will get data. This is a historic launch as it is the second operational mission of LVM3 and first commercial launch,” the chairman said, adding that it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who wanted LVM3 to enter the commercial launch service market. “We will place another 36 satellites in the next M3 mission.”
The C-25 or the cryogenic upper stage of the three-stage rocket reoriented and added velocity to ensure safe separation distance of the satellites. The mission was part of the commercial arrangement made between NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) and M/s Network Access Associates (OneWeb Ltd), a UK-based company. India’s Bharti Enterprises is a major investor and shareholder in OneWeb.
D Radhakrishnan, CMD of NSIL, said this is an extremely remarkable mission. “The GSLV has made the most remarkable entry into the commercial launch market. We have shown the world how to execute a launch mission within three to four months.”
Among the many firsts in this launch, Isro said it was the first Indian rocket to carry a six-tonne payload, first commercial launch of LVM3 with NSIL, first multi-satellite mission of LVM3 to LEO and first OneWeb mission with NSIL/DoS.
OneWeb satellites is a constellation of 588 satellites (150kg-class satellites) that will operate on the low earth polar orbit that will offer internet services. Satellites are arranged in 12 rings (orbital planes) with each plane having 49 satellites.
The orbital planes are 1,200km above the earth inclined to be near polar at 87.8 degrees. Each satellite will complete a full trip around the earth every 109 minutes. The earth will be rotating underneath the satellites so they will always be flying over new locations on the ground.