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  • Writer's pictureayush devak

As ISRO launch vehicle GSLV Mk3 gets ready for maiden commercial flight; 'OneWeb' passengers arrive

A Ukrainian Antonov-124 transporter plane, ferrying precious cargo that belonged to a British Internet service provider, flew all the way from Florida in the US to the Indian city of Chennai. As amazing as it sounds, these are among the final steps that are underway for the much-awaited, maiden commercial launch of India's heavy-lifter rocket, the GSLV Mk3.

While India's GSLV Mk3 has flown all four Indian national missions successfully to date, this will be the first time that the rocket will be performing the paid service of ferrying customer satellites into space.

The cargo offloaded by the heavy-lift transporter plane were the 36 satellites of British internet service provider 'OneWeb', which are to be launched from India's spaceport in Sriharikota. The launch, which is said to be scheduled for October will mark a major milestone for India's space agency - the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

The GSLV Mk3 rocket is a three-stage heavy-lift launch vehicle developed by ISRO. The vehicle has two solid strap-on motors (burns solid fuel), a core-stage liquid booster (burns a combination of liquid fuels) and a cryogenic upper stage (burns liquid hydrogen with liquid oxygen).

It is designed to carry 4 ton class of satellites into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) or about 10 tons to Low Earth Orbit (LEO), which is about twice the capability of its predecessor, the GSLV Mk II.

Thus far, ISRO has purely relied on its PSLV rocket (that can carry up to 1.75 tonnes to Low Earth Orbit), to do commercial launches. The addition of the GSLV MK3 to this list would mean that India can make a greater impact in the international market and thereby earn revenue from launching heavier customer satellites.

Making an announcement of the satellites having landed in India, OneWeb tweeted, "Florida ➡️ Satish Dhawan Space Centre. We are excited to confirm the arrival of 36 satellites at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in advance of a planned launch from Sriharikota, India 🛰️Thanks to our launch partners, @isro and @NSIL_India as well as the team at @OneWebSatellit1".

Earlier this year, Chairman, ISRO, Dr S.Somanath mentioned two launches that the GSLV Mk3 would be performing for the UK-based OneWeb. While the first launch was said to be in October 2022, the second launch is likely to be in January 2023.

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