UK-based satellite operator OneWeb announced the arrival of its latest batch of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites in India. The Bharti Enterprises-backed operator’s satellites arrive in India ahead of their launch aboard the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro)’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV)-MkIII rocket, in the coming weeks.
In April this year, OneWeb confirmed that it will launch some of its remaining satellites, that would form part of its global communications constellation, in association with Isro. The company’s announcements came after the escalation of geopolitical conflicts between Ukraine and Russia, due to which the latter’s state-backed space agency seized a batch of 36 LEO satellites — and refused to launch unless a number of Russia’s demands were met.
In October last year, OneWeb signed a non-binding letter of intent (LoI) with NSIL to use Isro’s launch services for deploying its satellites. A target launch was slated for 2022, which is now expected to take place in the coming weeks. Following OneWeb’s suspension of launch services in Russia, a OneWeb spokesperson told Mint on March 9 that the company was “exploring all options” to launch the remainder of its satellites.
In end-March this year, the company launched its next batch of satellites with US-based SpaceX.
Earlier this month, OneWeb revealed in its annual financial report that Russia’s seizure of its satellites contributed to a $229 million loss for the year — accounting for 58.7% of its $390 million net loss reported for last year.
In a statement earlier today, OneWeb said that the launch with Isro will be the company’s 14th, and complete 70% of its intended constellation of 648 satellites. Following this, OneWeb will conduct another launch by end-2022, followed by three more launches next year.
For Isro, this will mark the first commercial launch that would use the space agency’s GSLV launcher, ever since commercial contracts were assigned under the public sector undertaking (PSU), New Space India Limited (NSIL). The GSLV is India’s heaviest capacity satellite launcher, but for commercial operations, the agency has largely used its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) launcher.
In India, the company has also signed a connectivity distribution partnership with Hughes Communications India, which will operate and distribute OneWeb’s satellite internet connectivity services to its clients in the country.