Prime Minister Narendra Modi's timely intervention and the Indian government's support in making available ISRO rockets paved the way for Sunday's crucial launch of the final set of 36 satellites of OneWeb, the satellite telecom service provider company's Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal said.
The Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite communications firm yesterday launched the satellites on an ISRO LMV3 rocket from the Sriharikota space facility in Andhra Pradesh. With this, the total fleet of in-orbit first generation constellation of the London-based company has gone up to 618. These satellites are crucial for the company to be able to deliver broadband Internet coverage from space to any place on Earth.
"We had a big setback with the Russia, Ukraine war as six launches of satellites, which were contracted and fully paid for, were taken out. Not only was OneWeb struggling to get its money back, but it also lost 36 satellites, three very valuable dispensers, which dispense satellites in space, due to the same," Mr Mittal, the founder and chairman of Bharti Global said.
"Prime Minister Modi recognised the moment and directed the entire space ecosystem in India to step up and give two rockets to OneWeb, which I think has been a game changer for us," the telecom tycoon told media persons in an online interaction after the launch.
OneWeb's mission faced jeopardy when in March last year its 36 satellites that were scheduled to liftoff on a Russian-built Soyuz rocket were removed from the launch pad in Kazakhstan, which is managed jointly by the Russian Aerospace Forces and Roscosmos, Russia's federal space agency. Russia had reportedly demanded that OneWeb guarantee the satellites would not be used for military purposes and that the United Kingdom government divest itself from the London-based company.
Meanwhile, Mr Mittal added, "I have to compliment ISRO who have done a phenomenal job. And doing this in utmost tight time-frame."
"I would like to truly recognize the Prime Minister's leadership in the space. He saw space right in the beginning of his assuming the prime ministership, and started to work studiously towards shaping the space industry ecosystem," Mr Mittal said.
He said that under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi, players from private sectors were invited for the first time to participate in the space industry.
"The move encouraged start-ups and we all know the number of new start-ups that are taking shape in manufacturing satellites doing private launches. Skyroot recently did its launch and user terminals and many things associated with this critical industry are shaping up," he said.
"India's space budget is about Rs 13000 crore, and I think India has the potential to go up to significantly higher numbers. And therefore I recognise this moment for the Indian space industry today," he asserted.
OneWeb has confirmed the successful deployment and contact of 36 satellites launched by NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), - the ISRO's commercial arm, from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC-SHAR) in Andhra Pradesh's Sriharikota.
The Launch Vehicle Mark-3 (LVM3)-OneWeb India-2 mission took off at 9.00 am India time from the second launch pad at the iconic Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota (SDSC-SHAR) spaceport off the Andhra Pradesh coast.
Lift-off took place on Sunday at 9 am. OneWeb's satellites separated successfully from the rocket and were dispensed in nine phases over a period of 1 hour and 14 minutes, with the signal acquisition on all 36 satellites confirmed.
This was OneWeb's 18th launch, and third in this year, bringing the total of OneWeb's constellation to 618 satellites. The satellite constellation will enable global connectivity solution by the end of this year, as stated by officials of OneWeb.
This was the second mission operated by ISRO for the OneWeb subsidiary Network Access Associates under a commercial agreement with the NewSpace India Ltd (NSIL) to launch 72 satellites into LEO. NSIL is ISRO's commercial arm.