In a mission termed 'historic' by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), its heaviest-ever rocket took off from Sriharikota on Sunday, carrying 36 broadband communication satellites.
The Launch Vehicle Mark III (LVM3) successfully placed the satellites of OneWeb, a UK-based private communication network, into the intended orbits. The 43.5 metre-tall rocket took off Sunday at 12:07 am from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota.
"LVM3 M2/OneWeb India-1 mission is completed successfully. All the 36 satellites have been placed into intended orbits. @NSIL_India @OneWeb," ISRO said in a tweet.
Around 30 minutes after the takeoff, ISRO chairperson S Somanath announced that 16 satellites had been placed in the desired orbits while the remaining 20 satellites would be separating. "We are not able to see it from this place (the rocket will be on the other side of the earth) and the data will come a little later," he said.
ISRO later confirmed the desired objective of the mission has been met.
LVM3 - M2/OneWeb India-1 Mission: Launch scheduled at 0007 hrs. IST on October 23, 2022. Cryo stage, equipment bay (EB) assembly completed. Satellites are encapsulated and assembled in the vehicle. Final vehicle checks are in progress. @NSIL_India @OneWeb pic.twitter.com/pPbqjDjFmS— ISRO (@isro) October 14, 2022
Somnath also called the mission 'historic', and credited Prime Minister Narendra Modi's support for the mission's success. "Congratulations to the entire launch vehicle team for grabbing the opportunity and making it ready today for the historic mission. I also want to thank the OneWeb team for having confidence in us to host the LVM3...we are very hopeful that the next mission of LVM3 will do the same to place the remaining 36 satellites it has been contracted by NSIL", he said.
The mission marks a significant milestone for the space agency as the vehicle carried the heaviest payload of 5,796 kg. This is the maiden dedicated commercial mission for the launch vehicle.
The launch is also the first for LVM3-M2 to place the satellites in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO-up to 1,200 km above the Earth) unlike Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).
While the rocket can launch 8,000 kg of payloads into LEO, it can also launch 4,000 kilograms class of satellites into GTO.
The success of the mission also helps ISRO overcome the failure experience during the launch of the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) mission in August. The anomaly had left the satellites unusable.
The mission is also a shot in the arm for the ISRO as the LVM3 joins its trusted workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) capable of launching satellites into Low Earth Orbit.
Besides the 36 ones, OneWeb will launch another batch of satellites by early 2023 as part of its mission to implement a constellation of 648 satellites in the Low Earth Orbit.
OneWeb is a global communication network powered from space, enabling internet connectivity for governments and businesses. Bharti Enterprises is one of the major investors in OneWeb.
(With inputs from PTI)