Satellite company “OneWeb” partly-owned by the UK government, has done a deal to use Indian rockets.
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OneWeb said the first Indian launch of its broadband internet satellites could take place by the end of this year.The spacecraft would go up from the SDSC (Satish Dhawan Space Centre) on Sriharikota Island in the east of the country.
India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) is the rocket which is expected to be used as its largest and most capable vehicle.
Some sort of deal with NewSpace India, the commercial arm of the country’s national space agency, was expected. OneWeb’s largest shareholder is the Indian conglomerate Bharti Global.
Its chairman, Sunil Bharti Mittal, is also the executive chairman at OneWeb.
“This is yet another historic day for collaboration in space, thanks to the shared ambition and vision of NewSpace India and OneWeb,” he said in a statement.
“This most recent agreement on launch plans adds considerable momentum to the development of OneWeb’s network, as we work together across the space industry toward our common goal of connecting communities globally.
OneWeb’s plans to build a global network of internet satellites in the sky was knocked off course in March by the war in Ukraine.
With only two-thirds of the satellites in orbit needed to complete its network, OneWeb had little choice but to go to SpaceX to book some rides on the California outfit’s Falcon rockets. SpaceX is currently building its own space-borne internet service called Starlink.
OneWeb didn’t reveal much regarding the worth of the deal and expected number of Indian rockets it would use. The GSLV can lift about nine tonnes to low-Earth orbit – similar to the Soyuz. It was last used in 2019 to launch India’s Chandrayaan-2 Moon mission.
OneWeb has so far launched 428 satellites, company’s intention is to expand later generations of the network to encompass 7,000 satellites in orbit, meaning the GSLV could become a key component in the future of the OneWeb project.
“We welcome the partnership between OneWeb and NewSpace India Limited (NSIL); it’s a historic development and this will surely pave the way for a greater participation of private space players, resulting in a boost to the Indian space economy,” said Lt. Gen. Anil Kumar Bhatt (Retd), the director-general of the Indian Space Association.
Building space-borne internet systems is the vogue of the moment. As well as OneWeb and SpaceX-Starlink, the Amazon online retailer is about to get into this market. Earlier this month it signed the largest commercial launch deal ever, purchasing up to 83 launches from three separate rocket companies to loft its Kuiper system.
This would see more than 3,000 internet broadband satellites placed in low-Earth orbit over a period of five years.