ISRO Boosts Reputation with OneWeb Commercial Launches

OneWeb had initially planned to launch its satellites through the Russian space agency, but the plan was canceled due to the Russia-Ukraine war. The Russian agency halted the launch until it received assurance from the UK government-backed company that the satellites wouldn’t be used against them, and that the British government would sell its stake. OneWeb’s executive chairman, Sunil Bharti Mittal, stated that India stepped in to help by launching 72 OneWeb satellites through two LVM3 launches. SpaceX also launched some of the satellites, but ArianeSpace was not a viable option due to the retirement of its workhorse Ariane5 rocket and significant delays with Ariane6. The successful launches have established LVM3 as a commercial vehicle and earned ISRO upwards of Rs 1,000 crore, contributing to India’s goal of increasing its share in the global commercial space market.

ISRO Boosts Reputation with OneWeb Commercial Launches
ISRO Boosts Reputation with OneWeb Commercial Launches

Since opening the space sector to private players in 2020, India has been focused on expanding its share of the commercial space market. ISRO has developed the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle to provide on-demand launch services commercially, with a low turnaround time and lower costs than the current workhorse PSLV. Two development flights of the SSLV have been completed, and it has been inducted into the ISRO fleet. ISRO has launched 384 foreign satellites from at least 36 countries, with the highest number of commercial launches by companies from the United States. The revenue generated by the commercial arm New Space India Limited, created in 2019, has increased from Rs 1,731 crores in 2021-22 to a projected Rs 3,509 crores in 2023-24, an increase of 100%. The revenue generated by the Department of Space has also increased nearly 200% from Rs 929 crore in 2020-21 to Rs 2,780 crore in 2022-23, suggesting a transition towards a more commercially oriented agency. A report from the parliamentary standing committee on the budget of the space agency commended the achievements of NSIL and recommended that the department provide support to enable NSIL to act as an agency of international character and quality.

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