Airtel’s Satellite Internet Joins Forces With ISRO For Launching Rockets: No More Russian Companies?
Satellite broadband company OneWeb has signed a contract for rocket launches with New Space India Limited, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation.
This will help ensure OneWeb completes its satellite launch programme.
Progress So Far
The company has already launched a total of 428 small c.150kg Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites into space.
Its initial plan is to build a constellation of 648 which is sufficient for global coverage.
588 are needed for coverage – the rest are for redundancy.
India’s Bharti Global is one of OneWeb’s biggest and most significant shareholders apart from the UK government.
The first launch with New Space India is expected to happen in 2022 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota.
The company has also made a deal to use Indian rockets, which will complement the contract it signed with SpaceX .
However there are no details yet as to how many LEOs will actually be handled by NSIL.
Indigenous GSLV Rocket
These LEOs will ride on India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark 3 rocket (or possibly also Mark 2).
The GSLV is India’s largest and most capable vehicle which was last used in 2019 to launch the Chandrayaan-2 Moon mission.
It can lift about nine tonnes to low-Earth orbit – similar to the Soyuz.
This is the first time the GSLV-Mk3 has launched commercial missions.
The medium-lift Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) is another option.
OneWeb’s commercial service is initially focusing on servicing parts of the UK, Alaska, Canada, Northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland, and the Arctic seas.
It will be more oriented towards government, maritime, aviation and enterprise needs.
Community mobile (backhaul) and broadband connectivity for rural regions will come later, most likely via partner ISPs like BT and Eutelsat.
Meanwhile, the company has received a licence from the the Department of Telecom to provide satellite services in India.
The department issued the Global Mobile Personal Communication by Satellite (GMPCS).
With this licence Oneweb will be able to provide satellite communication services and Bharti group will have an advantage in connecting its mobile towers through satellite services.
The first Indian launch of its broadband internet satellites could take place by the year’s end.