Indian heavy lift rocket LVM3 successfully placed the 36 satellites of UK-based Network Access Associates Ltd (OneWeb) in low earth orbit (LEO) on Sunday morning, the Indian space agency said.
The 43.5-metre tall LVM3 rocket that weighed 643 ton carried 36 satellites, totalling 5,805 kg or about 5.8 ton, to the space.
The rocket blasted off from the second launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at 9 a.m. here and ascended towards the skies with thick orange flames at its tail.
Just over 19 minutes into its flight, the LVM3 began to sling the 36 small broadband communication satellites in low earth orbit (LEO).
The 36 satellites were slung in their intended orbit in a batch of four satellites.
"Our team will now continue to work through the morning to confirm contact with all our spacecraft," OneWeb tweeted.
Speaking about the mission S.Somanath, Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Secretary, Department of Space said that the rocket has done "extremely well" and the space agency is looking forward to continuing its relationship with its commercial partners.
Somanath also said the success of the mission is giving his team the confidence to progress further towards India's first human space mission 'Gaganyaan' as this will be the rocket that will be flying with the country's astronauts.
Expressing his happiness at the performance of the LVM3, Somanath added that there has been incremental progress towards the country's human space mission.
According to him, ISRO is gearing up for another commercial launch with its lighter rocket called Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).
The Indian space agency will also begin its launch campaign for another rocket - Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mk II (GSLV-Mk II), Somanath added.
On his part, the Chairman and Managing Director of NewSpace India Ltd (NSIL) D. Radhakrishnan said: "The OneWeb mission was a challenge as the cryogenic engine has to be maneuvered couple of times to place the multiple satellites at their intended orbits."
The NSIL is the commercial arm of India's Department of Space.
The satellites have been placed into a 450 km circular orbit with an inclination of 87.4 degrees.
The rocket mission's success on Sunday has taken the total number of foreign satellites launched by India since 1999 to 422.
The Indian space agency ISRO has codenamed the mission as 'LVM3-M3/OneWeb India-2 Mission'.
The LVM3 (formerly GSLV-Mk III) is a three stage rocket with the first stage fired with liquid fuel, the two strap on motors powered by solid fuel, the second by liquid fuel and the third is the cryogenic engine.
The ISRO's heavy lift rocket has a carrying capacity of 10 ton to the LEO and four ton to the Geo Transfer Orbit (GTO).
OneWeb, is a joint venture between India Bharti Global and the UK government.
With this launch, OneWeb backed by India's Bharti Group and the UK government has 618 satellites orbiting in space.
By completing the constellation, OneWeb is taking a pivotal step forward in delivering global coverage including India, the company had said.
The Sunday launch is the 18th for OneWeb.
The NSIL had signed a contract with the UK company to launch 72 satellites in two phases for a launch fee of over Rs 1,000 crore, OneWeb Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal had said last October.
The first batch of 36 satellites was launched on October 23, 2022 from Sriharikota rocket port in Andhra Pradesh with the LVM3 rocket formerly known as Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle MkIII (GSLV MkIII).
OneWeb Gen-1 satellites belong to the 150 kg class. The constellation comprises 648 individual satellites. Out of that 588 Active Satellites equally divided among 12 planes operate at an altitude of about 1200 km above the Earth's surface, ISRO said.
Each plane is separated in altitude by 4 km to prevent inter-plane collision.
The payload is a bent-pipe system operating in Ku and Ka band. The forward link receives Ka-band signals from the gateway via the satellite Ka antenna. The return link receives Ku-band signals from the User Terminals (UTs) via the satellite Ku antenna, ISRO said.