Telecoms tycoon Sunil Bharti Mittal-backed OneWeb will be launching 36 satellites from India’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre-Sriharikota Range (SDSC-SHAR) spaceport.
The UK-headquartered low earth orbit (LEO) satellite communications company on Tuesday announced the arrival of the satellites at the facility located in Andhra Pradesh’s Tirupati district. To be put into orbit by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)’s heaviest rocket, the GSLV-MkIII, this will be the fourteenth satellite launch by OneWeb by far.
The launch may happen as early as October, sources told Business Today requesting anonymity.
Another launch will take place later this year, while three more are targeted for early next year to complete the constellation, the company said in a statement. OneWeb’s total in-orbit constellation of LEO satellites currently stands at 428, or 66 percent of the fleet. Following this launch, OneWeb will have over 70 per cent of its planned Gen 1 LEO constellation in orbit to deliver high-speed, low-latency connectivity services, globally.
OneWeb has partnered with ISRO’s commercial arm, NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) for the launch as part of an agreement inked in April. The launch will be OneWeb’s 14th overall. OneWeb will launch an additional payload this year and three more are targeted for early next year to complete the constellation.
Terming the launch as a ‘pivotal moment’, the company said in that it was part of its strategy to deliver global coverage by next year. As the company has resumed its launch programme with leading companies in the satellite communications industry, its services are already available in Alaska, Canada, the UK and the Arctic region.
In July this year, Bharti Enterprises and OneWeb had announced a distribution partnership with Hughes Communications India to connect towns, villages, and local and regional municipalities in the hardest-to-reach areas.
“OneWeb’s dedication to industry collaboration has allowed us to successfully navigate the ever-changing global environment and prepare for yet another milestone launch. We are proud of our ability to adapt and remain on track to deliver global connectivity in the hardest-to-reach places,” said Neil Masterson, OneWeb CEO.
“Undertaking the launch of 36 OneWeb satellites onboard GSLV-MkIII from India is a historic moment for NSIL and ISRO. We are excited to see the arrival of the satellites and the ground support equipment in India in preparation for the launch,” remarked Radhakrishnan D, chairman & managing director of NSIL.
With a nearly 40 per cent stake, the $15 billion Bharti Group is the largest shareholder in OneWeb.
The GSLV Mk-III, the heaviest rocket designed by ISRO by far, is also scheduled to take India’s first crewed mission into space in the near future.
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