SpaceX’s Starlink now has a competitor, OneWeb which has successfully launched its final 36 satellites into orbit for its first-generation internet constellation. The event took place on Saturday, aboard Insdia’s most powerful rocket.
Launch Vehicle Mark-3 or LVM3 lifted off from India’s Satish Dhawan Space Center at 1:30 P.M EDT carrying 36 OneWeb broadband satellites toward low-Earth orbit (LEO).
The deployment took about 90 minutes from the time of liftoff according to the ISRO officials. The 36 satellites were successfully deployed into the intended orbit, which is a circular path about 280 miles (450 km) above Earth.
The satellites will raise their own orbits over the coming days and weeks, finally settling in at an altitude of about 745 miles (1,200 km).
LVM3-M3🚀/OneWeb 🛰 India-2 mission— ISRO (@isro) March 26, 2023
All 36 OneWeb Gen-1 satellites injected into the intended orbits
In its 6th consecutive successful flight, LVM3 carried 5805 kg of payload to Low Earth Orbit@OneWeb @NSIL_India
The launch was OneWeb’s 18th and final mission which the organization devoted to building its broadband constellation in LEO. The new 36 satellites make it 582 in total to form the first-gen constellation.
“This launch will be one of the most significant milestones in OneWeb’s history so far, with the launch adding an additional 36 satellites to the OneWeb fleet, the first-ever completed global LEO constellation,” OneWeb representatives said in a prelaunch statement.
“By completing the constellation, OneWeb is taking a pivotal step forward in delivering global coverage,” they added.
The majority of the previous 17 missions were conducted by the Russian-built Soyuz rockets operated by Arianespace, a French company. However, due t the ongoing war in Ukraine, has affected the partnership resulting in OneWeb seeking new rockets for its satellite missions.
The London-based company soon did just that, inking deals with both SpaceX and NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), ISRO’s commercial branch. SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets launched three missions for OneWeb, which is interesting, given that Elon Musk’s company is building its own broadband constellation in LEO, called Starlink.
Saturday’s launch was the second under NSIL contact with the first being in Oct 2022 which also saw the LVM3 being used to launch satellites into LEO.
The 143-foot-tall (43.5 meters) LVM3 is India’s brawniest rocket. It’s capable of delivering 17,600 pounds (8,000 kilograms) of payload to LEO, according to its ISRO specifications page.