ISRO's heaviest rocket LVM3 carrying 36 satellites blasts off from Sriharikota; closer to Gaganyaan

The satellites after being placed into the low-earth orbits would be divided among 12 planes at an altitude of about 1,200 km from Earth's surface.

Published: 26th March 2023 09:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th March 2023 02:15 PM   |  A+A-

ISRO's LVM3 carrying 36 satellites lifts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Station, in Sriharikota, Sunday, March 26, 2023. ( Photo |

ISRO's LVM3 carrying 36 satellites lifts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Station, in Sriharikota, Sunday, March 26, 2023. ( Photo |

Express News Service

SRIHARIKOTA:  The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Sunday successfully placed 36 commercial satellites into orbit, arguably the heaviest payload carried in a single mission till date from Indian shores. With this, NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), the commercial arm of ISRO, has successfully executed its contract to launch 72 satellites of OneWeb into low earth orbit. The first batch of 36 satellites was launched last year. 

This also means that Bharti Enterprise-backed OneWeb Group based in the UK completes its first generation (Gen-1) low earth orbit (LEO) constellation, allowing it to offer broadband internet services all over the world. OneWeb confirmed the acquisition of signals from all 36 satellites

The rocket, which will be used for the ambitious Gaganyaan mission, lifted off from Sriharikota at 9 am as scheduled. It gained the required altitude of 450km in about nine minutes and began injecting the satellites in the 20th minute. The C25 (cryogenic upper stage) performed a sophisticated manoeuvre to orient itself to inject satellites into precise orbits.

ISRO chairman S Somanath expressed his happiness over the consecutive successful flight of LVM3 and thanked NSIL for the opportunity and the confidence the OneWeb team had in ISRO. 

“I congratulate The Indian Space Research Organisation for making LVM3 rugged and demonstrating its capabilities of launching large, heavy payloads into the right orbit without any glitches. We look forward to greater engagement with commercial partners for making this rocket one of the best in its class,” he said and thanked the government for the support and approvals for the missions. 

NSIL CMD D Radhakrishnan termed Sunday’s launch momentous.

“Having a repeat performance of any launcher is not an easy thing to do. A special thing seen in this mission is using the cryogenic stage to do such a complex manoeuvre to meet OneWeb’s requirement. We are happy to be part of OneWeb’s journey and want to reassure them that NSIL will continue to engage to meet any other requirement.”

OneWeb said its constellation as on date is 618 satellites. The design calls for 588 satellites for global coverage and additional satellites are planned for resiliency. 

In a statement, Sunil Bharti Mittal, executive chairman of OneWeb, said, “Today’s launch represents a major step towards closing the digital divide. OneWeb’s global constellation will play a pivotal role in realising this dream.”

ISRO launched 36 commercial satellites
in a low-earth orbit at a 450km altitude | ISRO

Lt Gen (retd) AK Bhatt, director-general of Indian Space Association, said the completion of the last leg of the first-generation LEO constellation of 600+ satellites by OneWeb has set a significant benchmark for the entire Indian space industry in downstream application of satellite communication in India. This launch is a significant milestone for India to move towards benefiting from the remarkable capabilities of LEO connectivity and the spread of space-based internet. 

"This will surely aid in addressing the issue of low fixed broadband penetration and bridge the digital divide in the country's most remote areas. We are excited about the potential it holds and the positive impact it will have on our nation's aspirations for digital transformation," he added.

ISRO closer to Gaganyaan with the launch of LVM3

With an eye on the ambitious Gaganyaan mission, ISRO made a few design changes to the GSLV-Mk3 or LVM3 rocket that lifted off majestically on Sunday from Sriharikota with 36 commercial satellites onboard.  

ISRO Chairman S Somanath told TNIE that the modifications were aimed to increase the reliability and safety quotient. “We ruggedised possible points of failure. Increase the margins wherever there are thermally affected areas with extra insulation. The materials used are put through higher levels of screening and production controls. For instance, a typical rocket has two O-rings, now we have three so we have one more additional ceiling joint. Insulation which is given inside was almost 1.5 times what was done earlier,” Somanath said. 

The configuration used on Sunday is similar to the one that would be used for Gaganyaan. To be specific, the S200 motors on board are similar to the launchers required for the Gaganyaan.   “This rocket (LVM3-M3) also has the S200 motors that are designed with increased margins and features which are suited for Gaganyaan configuration. We are happy that it performed very well in this mission,” he said, addressing scientists at the Mission Control Centre.

“There were many more improvements in this rocket, which are aimed towards making it human-rated in the other stages and systems as well. I am very happy to see the progress incrementally happening towards Gaganyaan Mission as well.” 

Only a few days back, ISRO received the crew module structure simulated assembly for the integrated Air-Drop test (IADT) meant for validating the sequence and performance of parachute systems in the Gaganyaan mission.

The IADT will be performed, at Sriharikota, using an Indian Air Force helicopter by taking the crew module to an altitude of 3.6 to 4km to validate the deceleration system performance, ISRO said. 

Chandrayaan-3 launch likely in June-July 

Somanath told TNIE the next GSLV Mk-3 launch will be the Chandrayaan-3 mission, which is tentatively scheduled for June-July. There is also a GSLV-Mk2 launch carrying NASA ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) satellite, whose integrated payload comprising ISRO's S-band Radar and NASA's L-band Radar reached UR Rao Satellite Centre in Bengaluru earlier this month for carrying out further testing and assembly.

The official said the space agency was ready for the Chandrayaan-3 mission. The spacecraft successfully completed the essential tests recently that validated its capability to withstand the harsh vibration and acoustic environment that the spacecraft would face during its launch.


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