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ISRO to Launch OneWeb Satellites This Year

OneWeb has found another launch provider: NewSpace India, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). The two have inked a deal to start launching satellites later this year, from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India.

Left in the lurch

The LEO broadband constellation developer was launching with Roscosmos…until March. Since then, Soyuz hasn’t been flying too many Western payloads, leaving OneWeb without a ride to orbit. 

  • In March, OneWeb announced a launch deal with cross-town LEO rival SpaceX (beginning later this year). 
  • Chris McLaughlin, chief of government, regulatory, and engagement at OneWeb said at the time that OneWeb and Starlink don’t see one another as competition, as they serve different market needs and user bases.
  • The partnership announcement with SpaceX left a lot of questions unanswered, including how many launches the company had procured. The ISRO deal confirms that OneWeb will seek out multiple launch providers to complete its constellation.

The latest with ISRO

India’s space agency has been signing partnerships, building rockets, and planning ambitious missions over the past few years, and much of that planning should be coming to fruition by the end of the year: 

  • The Chandrayaan-3 lunar lander may launch late this year, though it is more likely to be delayed to 2023. If successful, the mission would make India the fourth spacefaring nation to successfully land a craft on the Moon. Chandrayaan-2 crash-landed in 2019.
  • The inaugural flight of ISRO’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) is targeted for July through September.
  • In February, ISRO launched the EOS-04 radar imaging satellite aboard its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

This isn’t the first time OneWeb and ISRO have linked up. In 2021, OneWeb and NewSpace India signed a letter of intent to begin launching satellites on the agency’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark 3, its largest rocket, and PSLV. 

Launch details…can we have any more? 

Not right now. ISRO and OneWeb didn’t divulge much about the partnership, including the number of launches procured, how many satellites will be launched, or when exactly the launches will take place. We also don’t know which comes first: the chicken, the egg, a SpaceX/OneWeb launch, or an ISRO/OneWeb one. McLaughlin told SpaceNews that the launches will use GSLV, but declined to expand on the announcement further.

Correction: A previous version of this story said the Chandrayaan-3 was targeted for launch in August. The error has been corrected.

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