ISRO Launch Completes OneWeb Gen 1 Constellation Ahead of Global Service
OneWeb’s full first generation constellation has now been launched after a weekend mission from India, clearing the way for global service.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) launched 36 satellites for OneWeb on March 26 on an Indian LVM3 rocket. OneWeb confirmed after the mission that all satellites were successfully deployed and the operator confirmed signal acquisition with all 36 satellites.
This was a milestone mission for OneWeb, taking its constellation to 618 satellites. The operator said 588 satellites are needed for global coverage, and the additional satellites are for resiliency and redundancy. It was a milestone mission for the LEO constellation, which faced a number of setbacks on the path to completing its constellation — from going through bankruptcy and new ownership in 2020, to suspending its launch campaign with Arianespace in 2022 after Russia started the war in Ukraine.
OneWeb plans to start global coverage with the Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) constellation by the end of the year. Its service is currently operational north of the 50-degree latitude in certain areas.
“This is the most significant milestone in the history of OneWeb, as we reach the satellites needed for global coverage,” OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson said. “Over several years we have remained focused on our commitment to deliver coverage solutions for the customers and communities that need it most. With today’s satellite deployment, facilitated by our expert team and our partners at ISRO and NSIL, we are releasing this central ambition.”
Sunil Bharti Mittal, executive chairman of OneWeb, spoke to the importance of completing OneWeb’s launch campaign in India.
“I am particularly proud that OneWeb has crossed the threshold to be able to provide its global coverage in India, a country whose ambitions in enhancing space-based connectivity are being driven by New Space India and ISRO,” Mittal said. “The government of India’s target to significantly expand access to high-speed internet connectivity is vital, and OneWeb is grateful for all the support and is delighted to be playing its part.”
Last year, OneWeb and Hughes Network Systems announced a six-year distribution partner agreement to provide LEO connectivity services across India, after Hughes and Bharti Airtel Limited began operating a joint venture in the country. Bharti Airtel is the flagship company of Bharti Enterprises, is a global telecommunications company founded by Mittal.
OneWeb is in the process of combining with Eutelsat. The GEO operator recently said the deal is not considered for an EU referral, and France and U.S. approval is still ongoing. The deal is expected to close in the second or third quarter of this calendar year.