India picks up launch contracts for 72 OneWeb satellites
OneWeb will resume satellite launches in the next few weeks, using an Indian rocket instead of the Russian Soyuz rockets that have been blocked because of the war against Ukraine.
The company has flown 36 satellites to India’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre in advance of a planned launch from Sriharikota, said by Indian media to take place by the end of September or early October.
CEO Neil Masterson (pictured) said: “OneWeb’s dedication to industry collaboration has allowed us to successfully navigate the everchanging global environment and prepare for yet another milestone launch. We are proud of our ability to adapt and remain on track to deliver global connectivity in the hardest to reach places.”
French company Arianespace has already launched 428 of OneWeb’s first-generation fleet, out of a planned 648, all aboard Russian-built Soyuz rockets and mostly from Russian-controlled sites.
But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February meant that further launches were abandoned – including one for which 36 satellites were already on top of the Soyuz rocket. OneWeb looked for other routes into low Earth orbit (LEO).
Reports that OneWeb was looking to India emerged almost two years ago in the Indian media, and were belatedly confirmed by OneWeb itself.
Again, Indian media are taking the lead, with the Times of India reporting today that OneWeb will use the first two of a planned six initial launched by NewSpace India (NSIL) for the next 18 months.
NSIL is the commercial arm of the national space agency of India, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
The newspaper reports, citing unnamed sources: “While the OneWeb launch was initially planned for September, it may be pushed to October now.” The report says that the next OneWeb launch will be “early next year”.
OneWeb announced in March that it is also working with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to launch satellites.
Masterson said: “With many thanks to our top-of-the line partners ISRO and NSIL, as well as our shareholder Bharti Global for their continued stewardship, we were able to facilitate this upcoming pioneering launch in Sriharikota, India.”
Sriharikota is an island in the Bay of Bengal, 70km north of Chennai and connected to the Indian mainland via a 16km road.