The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has achieved yet another milestone in its space exploration endeavours by successfully launching its heaviest rocket Launch Vehicle Mark-III (LVM3) with 36 satellites onboard on March 26, 2023. The LVM3 rocket, also known as Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle MkIII (GSLVMkIII), lifted off from the second launch pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, at 9 am IST.
The LVM3 rocket carried 36 satellites belonging to UK-based Network Access Associated Ltd (OneWeb), a global communication network powered from space. The satellites weighed a total of 5,805 kgs and were placed into a 450 kms circular orbit with an inclination of about 87.4 degree. This was the second mission for OneWeb under a commercial agreement with NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), ISRO‘s commercial arm, to launch 72 satellites to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The first set of 36 satellites was launched in LVM3-M2/OneWeb India-1 mission on October 23, 2022.
With this mission, OneWeb completed the first generation of its LEO constellation with 616 satellites in orbit, which would enable it to launch global services later this year. OneWeb aims to provide high-speed internet connectivity to governments and businesses across the world, especially in remote and rural areas. OneWeb has Bharti Enterprises as a major investor, highlighting the collaboration between the United Kingdom and Indian space industries.
The LVM3-M3/OneWeb India-2 mission was ISRO’s second successful launch this year after the SSLV-D2/EOS07 mission undertaken in February. It was also the sixth overall flight of LVM3 rocket, which had five consecutive missions including the Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission. The LVM3 rocket is a three-stage vehicle with the first stage fired with liquid fuel, the two strap-on motors powered by solid fuel, the second stage by liquid fuel, and the cryogenic engine. The LVM3 rocket has a carrying capacity of 10 tons to the LEO and four tons to the Geo Transfer Orbit (GTO).
The LVM3 rocket is a remarkable achievement for ISRO as it showcases its capability to launch heavy payloads into various orbits. The LVM3 rocket is also expected to be used for future human spaceflight missions under the Gaganyaan programme, which aims to send Indian astronauts to space by 2024. The LVM3 rocket is a testament to ISRO’s vision and commitment to advancing India’s space programme and contributing to global space exploration.