India on track for OneWeb launch in second half of October

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TAMPA, Fla. — India expects to conduct the first launch of OneWeb satellites in eight months during the second half of October, Indian space agency ISRO said Oct. 5.

ISRO said 36 satellites for the British broadband startup will be integrated with the upper stage of India’s GSLV Mark 3 medium-lift rocket in “the coming days.”

The satellites, delivered to the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India last month from a factory in Florida, have already been assembled into a dispenser unit after passing health checks.

The dispenser functions as an interface between the satellites and the rocket and was built by Switzerland-based Beyond Gravity (formerly RUAG Space).

Beyond Gravity also provided dispensers that Arianespace used to deploy 428 of OneWeb’s planned 648 satellites with Soyuz launch vehicles. 

Arianespace was forced to halt the deployment of OneWeb’s constellation after sanctions stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine effectively banned Western companies from using Russian rockets.

OneWeb’s previous batch of 36 satellites had been set to lift off from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome March 4, before Russia imposed poison-pill conditions on the launch.

The British operator subsequently suspended all further Soyuz missions as international relations soured.

Paul Horstink, executive vice president of Beyond Gravity’s launcher division, said “only a minor adaptation” was needed to make the dispenser used for OneWeb’s Soyuz launches compatible with GSLV Mark 3.

“This will be the first flight of a dispenser from us” on an Indian rocket, he added.

New Space India Limited (NSIL), ISRO’s commercial arm, will conduct the launch from one of two launchpads at Satish Dhawan Space Centre capable of facilitating orbital missions.

Arianespace said Sept. 13 it had reached a settlement deal with OneWeb and will support upcoming launches, including satellite dispenser services from India.

NSIL and SpaceX have signed agreements for two and three OneWeb launches, respectively, which are slated to complete before the end of spring 2023 to give the operator global coverage.

 

This article was updated Oct. 7 with more details on Beyond Gravity’s updated OneWeb dispensers and Arianespace’s canceled Soyuz launches.