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Explained | The ISRO-OneWeb Rocket Launch To Bolster Internet Access in India

Ahead of lift-off, here's all you need to know about India's flagship LVM3-M2 rocket and its significance.

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Making for the perfect way to ring in Diwali, India’s heaviest rocket, the GSLV Mk III, is set to blast off from the second pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh’s Sriharikota at seven minutes past midnight on Sunday, 23 October.

Explained | The ISRO-OneWeb Rocket Launch To Bolster Internet Access in India

  1. 1. How Heavy?

    The rocket will be carrying a payload mass of 5,796 kg or 641 tonnes, according to a statement on the space agency’s website. In other words, it will be lugging weight that’s equivalent to the weight of five fully loaded passenger planes, ET reported.

    What’s it called: GSLV stands for Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle. The ‘III’ in GSLV Mk III means that it is a third generation rocket. This type of rocket is usually used by ISRO to launch geostationary communication satellites.

    But this time’s different: The GSLV Mk III is also being referred to as the Launch Vehicle Mark 3 (LVM3-M2) because it is going to place satellites in a Low Earth Orbit (LEO), not in a Geostationary Equatorial Orbit (GEO).

    • The difference is that satellites in GEO can only move along the Earth’s equator at a height of about 35,786 km above the surface, as per the European Space Agency. 

    • LEO satellites are placed in an orbit that’s less than 1,000 km above the Earth’s surface. 

    • More crucially, LEO satellites can directly circle along the Earth’s equator as well as follow a path that’s tilted relative to the equator.

    Expand
  2. 2. What’s On Board?

    The rocket that will be launched from the Sriharikota spaceport will be carrying 36 LEO satellites. They will be used to provide high speed, low-latency internet connectivity.

    Expand
  3. 3. Who’s at Ground Control?

    The launch is the result of a partnership between two main players:

    • The NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) which serves as the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation. Officially, it is a central public sector enterprise that comes under the aegis of the country’s Department of Space.

    • LEO communications company OneWeb. The UK-based firm boasts of Bharti Enterprises (the parent company of Airtel) as being one of its major shareholders and investors.

    • FYI, the UK government is also a minority shareholder in OneWeb.

    Expand
  4. 4. Why It Matters

    OneWeb’s satellites will be used to provide satellite broadband in rural and remote parts of India where it is expensive and difficult to lay down fiber-optic connections. Presently, only the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep (Indian union territories) have internet that is facilitated through the satellite medium.

    The satellites that are to be launched will be a part of OneWeb’s constellation comprising 648 satellites, of which 322 are already in orbit. The company had also previously said that it would be expanding its services to the Arctic region including Alaska, Canada, and the UK in 2022.

    Expand
  5. 5. A Day of Firsts

    • With the launch of this rocket, ISRO (and NSIL) will be making its debut in the global commercial launch services market.

    • Additionally, it will also be the first time that an LVM3 will be launched on demand through NSIL.

    • That the LVM3 is being launched to an LEO is another first

    • This is the first Indian-made rocket with a payload of over six tonnes

    • The OneWeb India-1 Mission is the first such mission being undertaken by the NSIL

    • This is also the first mission kicking off the pact signed by NSIL and OneWeb. "Another set of 36 OneWeb satellites will be launched by the LVM3 in the first half of next year," an NSIL executive told news agency PTI.

    Expand
  6. 6. What They’re Saying

    ISRO Chairman and Department of Space Secretary S Somananth said that with the LVM3 or GSLV Mk3 rocket, India has a slot in the global commercial satellite launch market since there is a shortage of rockets to launch satellites.

    “The Russian rockets are not in consideration now. Further the Ariane 6 rocket of Arianespace got delayed. The commercial potential of Chinese rockets is not accepted by the West. Hence India has a slot now,” Somanath told IANS.

    India is planning to ramp up production of the LVM3 rocket. “A plan is being made to ramp up LVM3 production to four or five per year after one to two years. And investments are needed for that. NewSpace India Ltd (NAIL-commercial arm of ISRO) will look into how to do this,” Somanath said.

    “The GSLV rocket will be for internal (domestic) demand. Only PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) and LVM3 are into commercial service now,” Somanath said.

    “All those countries feeling the pinch due to the absence of Russian rockets for satellite launches may look at alternatives. While the bulk of the satellite launch contracts will be taken by the US and Europe, there will be others who may look at other options. India’s neutrality has created a new market segment,” Chaitanya Giri, founder, DAWON Advisory & Intelligence, had told IANS.

    Expand
  7. 7. Catch the Lift-Off

    The launch of the GSLV Mk III or LVM3-M2 will be live-streamed on the official YouTube handle of OneWeb, the company's website, and its LinkedIn page. The programming is set to begin from 11:42 pm IST.

    (With inputs from ET and IANS.)

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

How Heavy?

The rocket will be carrying a payload mass of 5,796 kg or 641 tonnes, according to a statement on the space agency’s website. In other words, it will be lugging weight that’s equivalent to the weight of five fully loaded passenger planes, ET reported.

What’s it called: GSLV stands for Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle. The ‘III’ in GSLV Mk III means that it is a third generation rocket. This type of rocket is usually used by ISRO to launch geostationary communication satellites.

But this time’s different: The GSLV Mk III is also being referred to as the Launch Vehicle Mark 3 (LVM3-M2) because it is going to place satellites in a Low Earth Orbit (LEO), not in a Geostationary Equatorial Orbit (GEO).

  • The difference is that satellites in GEO can only move along the Earth’s equator at a height of about 35,786 km above the surface, as per the European Space Agency. 

  • LEO satellites are placed in an orbit that’s less than 1,000 km above the Earth’s surface. 

  • More crucially, LEO satellites can directly circle along the Earth’s equator as well as follow a path that’s tilted relative to the equator.

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Details:

  • Being 43 meters from the ground up, the rocket is not just the heaviest one that ISRO has, it is also the shortest.

  • “This mission is the 5th flight of LVM3,” ISRO said.

  • These rockets are capable of ferrying satellites that are in the four-tonne range to the Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO). From here, the satellites are able to put themselves into the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) using low-power thrusters.

  • In the case of the LVM3-M2, the satellites will be put in orbit using a three-stage system comprising two strap-on motors and a liquid propellant core stage. The last stage is the upper cryogenic stage.

What’s On Board?

The rocket that will be launched from the Sriharikota spaceport will be carrying 36 LEO satellites. They will be used to provide high speed, low-latency internet connectivity.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Who’s at Ground Control?

The launch is the result of a partnership between two main players:

  • The NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) which serves as the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation. Officially, it is a central public sector enterprise that comes under the aegis of the country’s Department of Space.

  • LEO communications company OneWeb. The UK-based firm boasts of Bharti Enterprises (the parent company of Airtel) as being one of its major shareholders and investors.

  • FYI, the UK government is also a minority shareholder in OneWeb.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Why It Matters

OneWeb’s satellites will be used to provide satellite broadband in rural and remote parts of India where it is expensive and difficult to lay down fiber-optic connections. Presently, only the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep (Indian union territories) have internet that is facilitated through the satellite medium.

The satellites that are to be launched will be a part of OneWeb’s constellation comprising 648 satellites, of which 322 are already in orbit. The company had also previously said that it would be expanding its services to the Arctic region including Alaska, Canada, and the UK in 2022.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

A Day of Firsts

  • With the launch of this rocket, ISRO (and NSIL) will be making its debut in the global commercial launch services market.

  • Additionally, it will also be the first time that an LVM3 will be launched on demand through NSIL.

  • That the LVM3 is being launched to an LEO is another first

  • This is the first Indian-made rocket with a payload of over six tonnes

  • The OneWeb India-1 Mission is the first such mission being undertaken by the NSIL

  • This is also the first mission kicking off the pact signed by NSIL and OneWeb. "Another set of 36 OneWeb satellites will be launched by the LVM3 in the first half of next year," an NSIL executive told news agency PTI.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

What They’re Saying

ISRO Chairman and Department of Space Secretary S Somananth said that with the LVM3 or GSLV Mk3 rocket, India has a slot in the global commercial satellite launch market since there is a shortage of rockets to launch satellites.

“The Russian rockets are not in consideration now. Further the Ariane 6 rocket of Arianespace got delayed. The commercial potential of Chinese rockets is not accepted by the West. Hence India has a slot now,” Somanath told IANS.

India is planning to ramp up production of the LVM3 rocket. “A plan is being made to ramp up LVM3 production to four or five per year after one to two years. And investments are needed for that. NewSpace India Ltd (NAIL-commercial arm of ISRO) will look into how to do this,” Somanath said.

“The GSLV rocket will be for internal (domestic) demand. Only PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) and LVM3 are into commercial service now,” Somanath said.

“All those countries feeling the pinch due to the absence of Russian rockets for satellite launches may look at alternatives. While the bulk of the satellite launch contracts will be taken by the US and Europe, there will be others who may look at other options. India’s neutrality has created a new market segment,” Chaitanya Giri, founder, DAWON Advisory & Intelligence, had told IANS.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

“We need to make industries ready to produce PSLV, SSLV and LVM3 in bulk on their own. Otherwise, large scale launch service is difficult. This can also be modulated by geopolitical conditions evolving,” Somanath remarked.

But satcom industry players reportedly believe that in order to cash in on the opportunities, India should accelerate its satellite launch capabilities and announce productivity-linked incentive (PLI) schemes for the aerospace sector.

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Catch the Lift-Off

The launch of the GSLV Mk III or LVM3-M2 will be live-streamed on the official YouTube handle of OneWeb, the company's website, and its LinkedIn page. The programming is set to begin from 11:42 pm IST.

(With inputs from ET and IANS.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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