New Space lands OneWeb deal for LEOsat launches

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Image by 3DSculptor | Bigstockphoto

LEOsat company OneWeb has signed a new deal to use Indian rockets to launch its satellites after a deal with Russia’s space agency Roscosmos fell apart.

OneWeb – whose backers include Bharti Group and the UK government – entered into an agreement with New Space India Limited, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), to help the company complete its satellite launch programme.

OneWeb recently suspended satellite launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan amid the continuing Russia-Ukraine war.

The new contract follows a separate deal in March with SpaceX which will enable OneWeb to resume satellite launches.

OneWeb said the first launch with New Space India is anticipated to take place later this year from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota.

The launches will add to OneWeb’s in-orbit constellation of 428 satellites, 66% of its planned global fleet that will deliver high-speed, low-latency connectivity.

“This most recent agreement on launch plans adds considerable momentum to the development of OneWeb’s network, as we work together across the Space industry toward our common goal of connecting communities globally,” OneWeb Executive Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal said in a statement.

OneWeb said that it has already activated service on its network at the 50th parallel and above, as demand for the company’s broadband connectivity services continues to grow from multiple sectors and markets.

Indian Space Association (ISpA), the body representing space broadband providers, said that the latest deal will pave the way for a greater participation of private space players, resulting in a boost to the Indian space economy.

“This partnership has the potential  to drive the attention of many international players towards India’s capabilities leading to significant increase in our share in the international space economy, which is just 2.6% currently, and at the same time contribute to nation building and economic growth of the country,” said Lt. Gen. AK Bhatt (Retd.), Director General of ISpA.

The competition in the country’s satcom space is set to increase with Reliance Jio’s entry through its joint venture with Luxembourg’s SES. Jio said that it was aiming to make a dent in the satellite-based communications by disrupting “cost structures”, underlining its strategy to emerge as a formidable player in the segment.

Jio’s satellite arm has also sought a GMPCS licence from the country’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

OneWeb had last year secured a separate Letter of Intent (LoI) for national long distance (NLD) services from the DoT. A joint venture between Hughes Communications and Bharti Airtel will now distribute OneWeb’s satellite broadband services in India utilising the NLD licence.

SpaceX and Amazon are also eyeing India’s satellite communications market.

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