After months of delays brought on by the conflict in Ukraine, the Indian space agency reports that its rocket has successfully launched 36 internet satellites for the UK-based satellite company OneWeb into orbit.
The mission – part of a commercial arrangement between New Space India Limited, a government-run firm, and OneWeb – was announced successful by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
“This is the first-ever commercial launch of the new rocket LVM3 [Launch Vehicle Mark 3],” ISRO Chairman Sreedhara Panicker Somanath said as lift off took place from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh.
This 14th launch of OneWeb satellites relied on India’s heaviest rocket, normally reserved for government spacecraft. OneWeb launched its first satellite in 2019.
It was the first launch for OneWeb since breaking with the Russian Space Agency in March because of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Despite the setback this year, the British corporation claimed it is still on pace to launch a constellation of 648 satellites that will provide global coverage in 2019. In the most northern latitudes, service is already being offered.
The satellites will be arranged in 12 rings with 49 satellites in each plane at 1,200km circular orbit, ISRO said on its website. Each satellite will complete a full trip around the heart every 109 minutes, it added.
The launch is important for India and reflects the gradual opening of its space agency to private customers, Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, a director specialising in space and security at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi said.