Sriharikota (AP): The Indian Space Research Organisation's heaviest LVM3 rocket on Sunday successfully placed 36 internet satellites of UK-based OneWeb group company into intended orbits.
The 43.5 metre tall rocket blasted off at a prefixed time of 9 am today, from the second launch pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre here, about 135 kms from Chennai, at the end of a 24.30 hour countdown.
This is the second dedicated mission of NewSpace India Ltd (NSIL), the commercial arm of Indian Space Research Organisation.
ISRO had signed an agreement with Network Access Associates Ltd, United Kingdom, a OneWeb Group Company, for the launch of 72 satellites into Low-Earth orbits (LEO).
The first batch of 36 satellites were launched on October 23, 2022 by ISRO, and the second batch today.
OneWeb is a global communication network powered from space, enabling connectivity for governments and businesses.
Soon after takeoff, the rocket sequentially deployed the satellites into multiple orbits. While the first set of 16 satellites were injected around 20 minutes after lift off, the remaining satellites were placed into intended orbits later.
ISRO said, "LVM3-M3/OneWeb India-2 mission is accomplished. All 36 OneWeb Gen-1 Satellites injected into the intended orbits."
"In its sixth consecutive successful flight, LVM3 carried 5,805 kgs of payload to Low Earth Orbit," the space agency said on its official social media account.
The launch vehicle took off with a total payload of 5,805 kg at 9.00 hrs and gained the required altitude of 450 km in about nine minutes of flight, and achieved satellite injection conditions, ISRO said in a statement.
OneWeb confirmed the acquisition of signals from all 36 satellites, it said.
ISRO chairman S Somanath congratulated NSIL, ISRO and OneWeb for the successful launch of the mission.
"As we know today the first 16 satellites of the series are already placed into the right orbit. And now it has gone into the far south of the Earth and we will be getting confirmation of the remaining spacecraft separation soon, once the onboard storage data is acquired by our Indian ground stations." he said, addressing scientists at the Mission Control Centre.
The launch was the 18th for OneWeb while for ISRO, it would be the second mission in 2023 after the successful launch of the SSLV/D2-EOS07 undertaken in February.
"Till now, based on observations, the vehicle has done extremely well, it went up to the right orbit and placed the spacecraft at the right orbit and also with very minimal disturbances to it," Somanath noted.
Somanath expressed gratitude to NSIL for its support and also for the confidence that the OneWeb India team reposed in ISRO for building the rocket.
Union Minister Jitendra Singh lauded ISRO for Sunday's successful launch.
"Proud to be associated with the department of space #ISRO at a time when India under PM @NarendraModi has emerged as the frontline Space Tech nation of the world," he wrote on Twitter.
"Team ISRO adds yet another feather to its much decorated hat. Successful launch of LVM3-M3/OneWeb India-2 MIssion", the Union Minister of State (independent incharge) Science and Technology said.
OneWeb now has 616 satellites in its fleet, which is more than enough to launch global services later this year.
This mission marks OneWeb's second satellite deployment from India, highlighting the collaboration between the United Kingdom and Indian space industries, the company said.
The first set of satellite separation (comprising four of the 36 satellites) took place around 20 minutes after lift-off while the remaining were deployed into their respective orbits in phases later.
NewSpace India Ltd Chairman and Managing Director D Radhakrishnan hailed the Indian space agency for undertaking a complex mission and being successful in it.
He termed it a 'momentous' day for NewSpace India Ltd.
"One special thing that we see in this particular mission is the cryogenic stage being used for such a complex manoeuvre to meet the requirements of OneWeb in deploying the 36 satellites,” he said. “It is extremely challenging stuff that has been done and repeated here once again in this second mission.”
He thanked OneWeb for putting its faith in NSIL's capabilities. “I would say we are doubly happy that we are part of such a big journey that OneWeb has gone through in the last three years by deploying this particular satellite.”
The satellites after being placed into the low-earth orbits were divided among 12 planes at an altitude of about 1,200 km from the Earth's surface. Each plane would be separated at an altitude of 4 km to prevent inter-plane collision, ISRO said.
This is the sixth flight of LVM3, which was earlier known as the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk III (GSLV Mk III) with a cryogenic upper stage. It was deployed in five consecutive missions, including Chandrayaan-2.