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India’s heaviest rocket to launch 36 satellites to make its first global foray

BY S VENKAT NARAYAN
Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, October 9: The Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) heaviest rocket GSLVMK III will launch 36 satellites of London-headquartered global communication company OneWeb in the second half of this month.This will mark its maiden foray into the global satellite launch market. And it will help India’s Bharti Airtel-backed company move towards completion of its constellation of satellites for providing high-speed satellite-based internet across the world.

With this ‘LVM3 M2/OneWeb India-1 Mission’, the first LVM3 dedicated commercial launch on demand through (ISRO’s commercial arm) New Space India Ltd (NSIL), LVM3 enters the global commercial launch service market, the Indian space agency said on Thursday.

The global satcom company recently snapped its ties with the Russian space company for satellite launches due to the Ukraine war and decided to use ISRO’s services for launching its broadband satellites. The company had in March suspended all launches from Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in protest against the Russian-Ukraine conflict.As per some reports, the GSLVMkIII launch is expected in the intervening night of October 21 and 22 but ISRO is yet to confirm the launch date.

The proposed mission has several firsts for India. It is the first commercial launch of ISRO’s heaviest rocket GSLV MkIII. For the first time, an Indian rocket will be ferrying a payload of about six tonnes. It will be the first time OneWeb is using an Indian rocket to put its satellites into orbit. And it is also for the first time that GSLV MkIII or its variants are being used for launching satellites in low earth orbit (LEO).

OneWeb, which had already launched 428 of the total 648 low Earth orbit satellites for the constellation till February 2022, will connect towns, villages, and local and regional municipalities in the hardest-to-reach areas, thus playing a critical role in bridging the digital divide across India. The company’s services are already available in Alaska, Canada, UK, and the Arctic region.

Two solid strap-on boosters and a liquid core stage of LVM3 have been fully integrated at the second launchpad at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. In the coming days, the integration of the cryogenic upper stage of the launch vehicle and the integration of payload fairing with 36 satellites will take place, ISRO said.

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