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Oneweb India - the first commercial satellite launch for LVM3

I was thrilled to see the recent launch of the heavy rocket by ISRO, it carries a payload of 5,796 kg, almost equal to 5 fully loaded passenger planes! This particular launch caught my attention after Niharika, our brand manager shared a reel over our communication channel. Let me explain.

The Indian space research organization recently successfully concluded their heaviest satellite launch. Launch Vehicle Mark-3 (LVM3) launch vehicle placed 36 satellites of OneWeb to their intended orbits taking off at 0007 Hrs. on October 23, 2022. Apart from being the mission with the heaviest payload, it was also India’s first commercial satellite launch.

But why is this particular launch important?

OneWeb’s satellites are essential to providing network & internet connections in rural areas, where it is otherwise difficult to lay down fiber optic cables. Currently, it's only Andaman & Nicobar islands, & lakshadweep who have internet facilitated through satellite.

This launch represents a significant achievement for ISRO, which has quickly established itself as a leader in the global space industry. The satellite will join a fleet of OneWeb satellites in orbit, providing vital services for the country and advancing internet connectivity.

Here’s who they’ve got at ground control

The rocket will be launched from Sriharikota carrying 36 satellites. At ground control, our 2 main players are - NSIL - ISRO’s commercial arm & OneWeb - a UK based firm, who’s parent company is Bharti Airtel, also the UK govt, being a minority shareholder in OneWeb

Why is this launch so special?

This is a huge milestone for us reason being:

  • It was the first commercial satellite launch for LVM3
  • First mission where a total of 36 satellites were launched & placed in orbit
  • It was the first launch of LVM3 to Lower earth's orbit
  • It was the first-ever Indian rocket with a six-ton payload

With the launch of this mission, ISRO was able to put its presence in the commercial sector of space launches with LVM-3.

What is OneWeb?

OneWeb is a UK-based startup that aims to spread a constellation of 648-satellite internet constellations around the globe to provide high-speed, low-latency internet. Note that the UK government also does have a minority stake in the company..
They have had 14 launches as of October 2022.

The first of these launches took place in February 2019, when a Soyuz rocket lifted six of OneWeb's satellites into orbit from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia. This was followed by several more successful launches, including the deployment of 34 satellites in May 2019 and another batch of six satellites in December 2019.

OneWeb's satellite network is designed to be highly flexible and scalable, allowing the company to quickly and easily add more satellites to the network as needed. This will enable OneWeb to provide high-speed, low-latency internet access to users worldwide.

As per ISRO’s official press release, The separation of satellites involved a unique manoeuvre of the cryogenic stage to orientation and reorientation, covering 9 phases spanning 75 minutes. OneWeb confirmed the acquisition of signals from the satellites.

What do we have in Payload?

Image that describes Sattelite

OneWeb mission had 36 - 150 kg class satellites from OneWeb as their payload. These satellites, along with the others in the constellation, will provide internet services worldwide. Technically the cargo in the rocket is a bent-pipe system that works in the ka(26.5 to 40 GHz range) and Ku (12 to 18 GHz range) bands.

Frequency Diagram

The satellites, which are about the size of a mini fridge, will provide broadband internet services using Ka-band frequencies. This high-frequency band offers a much wider bandwidth than traditional satellite internet, allowing for faster and more reliable connections. The low-Earth orbit of the satellites will also reduce the latency, or lag time, that is often associated with satellite internet.

The figure above shows that the forward link receives Ka-band signals from the gateway via the satellite’s Ka antenna. At the same time, the return link receives Ku-Band signals from the User Terminals (UTs) via the satellite Ku Antenna.

The satellites are arranged in 12 rings (Orbital planes), with 49 satellites in each plane.

Why was this launch not similar to the other launches?

Image showing diffrent sepration stages

The satellite launch, separation, and reorientation took place in 9 phases spanning 75 minutes. A detailed description is explained in the image above. Which was not a easy task for ISRO

You can watch the complete launch here.

The satellites' separation took place in batches at a predetermined timeline.

With this mission being completed, ISRO has a strong hand in the commercial sector of space technology.

Technical highlights

Oneweb India launch had a lot of technicalities here are some notable technical highlights of the mission -

The mission was complex as it was a one-of-a-kind multi-satellite launch on a single launch. ISRO has had multiple multi-satellite launches before, but this case was unique as the payload was approximately six massive tons!

With multiple satellites onboard, ISRO’s one priority was handling numerous separations at designated timespan.

This increased the overall mission timespan, much higher than the nominal mission duration. ISRO also ensured safe separation distance through C25 stage re-orientation and velocity addition such that multiple satellites can be separated and placed into orbit.

Post C25 Shut off phase sequence

The diagram above shows multiple orientations in which the satellites were discharged or separated from the central unit.

Wrapping up

The mission was a huge success looking at the commercial aspects of ISRO and the Department of space. With this being a milestone, multiple projects can be laid over with this as their foundation.

After the mission, Sunil Mittal, Executive Chairman of OneWeb, said - “Today my dream of having an Indian element in the OneWeb constellation has been realized. This launch with ISRO and NSIL opens up the space sector in India with the possibility of billions of dollars flowing into the country.”

Over the coming months, ISRO has planned multiple launches for both the commercial and exploration sector. - “OneWeb”, being One of them.

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