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Countdown begins for ISRO’s historic rocket launch

ISRO’s historic rocket launch

The Indian space agency launched at 00:07 am on Saturday. The 24-hour countdown for the launch of its GSLV Mk III heavy-lift rocket codenamed LVM 3M2 for this mission, carried 36 ‘OneWeb’ satellites.

The 43.5-meter high, 644-tonne LVM3 M2 rocket will be launched at 12:07 am from the first and second pad of India’s Rocket Port in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, on Sunday.

“The countdown is progressing smoothly. L110 stage propellant filling and gas loading is in progress,” an Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) official told IANS.

The rocket and satellite systems will be checked during the countdown. Fuel for the rocket will also be filled.

Generally, GSLV rockets are used to launch India’s geostationary communication satellites. And thus, it was named Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV). GSLV MkIII refers to the third-generation rocket.

The rocket that took off on Sunday morning will orbit the OneWeb satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO); ISRO has renamed GSLV MkIII as LVM3 (Launch Vehicle MkIII).

With just 19 minutes to fly, the rocket will launch 36 small broadband communications satellites of Network Access Associated Ltd (OneWeb) into LEO.

OneWeb Bharat is a joint venture between Bharti Global and the UK Government.

The satellite company plans to build a cluster of around 650 satellites in low earth orbit (LEO) to offer communication services.

The LVM3 M2 is a three-stage rocket with a first stage on liquid fuel, two belts on a solid fuel engine, a second on liquid fuel, and a third on a cryogenic engine.

ISRO’s heavy-lift rocket has a payload capacity of 10 tonnes for LEO and four tonnes for Geo Transfer Orbit (GTO).

“The OneWeb satellites will have a total launch mass of 5,796 kg,” ISRO said.

All 36 satellites will be in a delivery system built by Switzerland-based Beyond Gravity, formerly RUAG Space.

Beyond Gravity previously provided satellite dispensers to launch 428 OneWeb satellites into Arianespace.

“The dispenser was supplied with 36 satellites by the vendor. It was used in all their previous launches,” the official told IANS.

This is the first time its dispenser has been installed on an Indian rocket for Beyond Gravity.

Till 1999, ISRO has so far launched 345 foreign satellites into orbit.

The successful launch of 36 OneWeb satellites will take the count to 381.

Another set of 36 OneWeb satellites is planned to be launched into orbit in January 2023.

This launch brings the OneWeb constellation to 462 satellites, more than 70 percent of the satellites required for OneWeb to achieve global coverage.

According to ISRO, OneWeb Constellation operates in an LEO polar orbit.

The satellites are arranged in 12 rings (orbital planes), with 49 satellites in each plane. The orbital planes are nearly polar (87.9°) and inclined 1,200 km above Earth.

Each satellite makes one complete revolution of the Earth every 109 minutes.

Earth rotates under satellites, so they will always be flying to new places on the ground. There will be 648 satellites in this constellation.

ISRO’s commercial arm, NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), signed two contracts with Network Access Associated Limited (OneWeb) to launch the latter’s broadband communication satellites into low Earth orbit.

OneWeb’s board voted to suspend satellite launches from Russia’s Baikonur rocket port.

Meanwhile, the Sunday rocket mission has several firsts for the Indian space sector. This is the first commercial launch of GSLV MkIII, and for the first time, an Indian rocket will carry a payload of around six tonnes. Similarly, OneWeb is using an Indian rocket to put its satellites into orbit for the first time. Additionally, this is the first commercial GSLV MkIII launch under contract with NSIL and the first time a rebranded GSLV MkIII is used to launch satellites in LEO.

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