The mission was part of a commercial agreement between a government-run company and the UK-based OneWeb satellite company.
The Indian space agency says the rocket successfully launched 36 internet satellites into orbit for British satellite company OneWeb, after months of delays due to the war in Ukraine.
The mission — part of a commercial agreement between New Space India Limited, a government-owned company, and OneWeb — was announced as successful early Sunday by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
“This is the first-ever commercial launch of the new rocket LVM3 [Launch Vehicle Mark 3]ISRO chairman Sreedhara Panicker Somanath said as the launch took place at 12:07 am from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Andhra Pradesh.
This 14th launch of OneWeb satellites was based on India’s heaviest rocket, normally reserved for government spacecraft. OneWeb launched its first satellite in 2019.
It was the first launch for OneWeb since its split with the Russian space agency in March over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Despite this year’s disruption, the British company said it remains on track to activate global coverage next year with a planned constellation of 648 satellites. It already provides services in the northernmost latitudes.
The satellites will be arranged in 12 rings with 49 satellites in each plane in a circular orbit of 1,200 km (745 miles), ISRO said on her website. Each satellite will make a full trip around the heart every 109 minutes, it added.
Each OneWeb satellite weighs approximately 150 kilograms (330 pounds).
The launch is significant for India and reflects the gradual opening of its space agency to private clients, Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, a director specializing in space and security at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, told the Associated Press.
Rajagopalan said India has experience launching smaller satellites and has tried to corner this market by setting itself up as a satellite launch facility.
The still raging war in Ukraine could provide an opportunity for India as many countries shun Russian launch services.
“It could boost that trend in a big way,” she said.