India launches 36 Internet satellites delayed by war in Ukraine

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This photograph released by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) shows India's heaviest rocket prepared before launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India on Saturday, October 15, 2022. India has launched 36 private internet satellites early Sunday, stepping in to keep the orbital constellation growing after a months-long hiatus related to the war in Ukraine.  (Indian Space Research Organization via AP)
This photograph released by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) shows India's heaviest rocket prepared before launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India on Saturday, October 15, 2022. India has launched 36 private internet satellites early Sunday, stepping in to keep the orbital constellation growing after a months-long hiatus related to the war in Ukraine.  (Indian Space Research Organization via AP)
This photograph released by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) shows India's heaviest rocket prepared before launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India on Saturday, October 15, 2022. India has launched 36 private internet satellites early Sunday, stepping in to keep the orbital constellation growing after a months-long hiatus related to the war in Ukraine.  (Indian Space Research Organization via AP)

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This photograph released by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) shows India’s heaviest rocket prepared before launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India on Saturday, October 15, 2022. India has launched 36 private internet satellites early Sunday, stepping in to keep the orbital constellation growing after a months-long hiatus related to the war in Ukraine. (Indian Space Research Organization via AP)

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This photograph released by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) shows India’s heaviest rocket prepared before launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India on Saturday, October 15, 2022. India has launched 36 private internet satellites early Sunday, stepping in to keep the orbital constellation growing after a months-long hiatus related to the war in Ukraine. (Indian Space Research Organization via AP)

NEW DELHI (AP) — India launched a rocket carrying 36 private internet satellites on Sunday morning, stepping in to keep the orbital constellation growing after a months-long hiatus related to the war in Ukraine.

The liftoff from southern India was London-based OneWeb’s first launch since breaking away from the Russian Space Agency in March due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We accomplished the orbit very accurately, now the rocket is in its intended orbit,” said S. Somanath, president of the Indian space agency. He said 16 satellites had been put into orbit and expressed optimism that “the remaining 20 satellites will be separated as safely as the first of 16”.

OneWeb now has 462 satellites in the air, more than 70% of what the company said it needs to deliver broadband services around the world. Despite this year’s disruptions, OneWeb said it remains on track to activate global coverage next year with a planned constellation of 648 satellites. It already provides service in the northernmost latitudes.

Each OneWeb satellite weighs approximately 330 pounds (150 kilograms).

It was the 14th launch of OneWeb satellites and relied on India’s heaviest rocket, normally reserved for government spacecraft. All previous OneWeb flights have been on Russian rockets; the first was in 2019.

The launch is significant for India and reflects the gradual opening of its space agency to private clients, said Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, director specializing in space and security at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.

Rajagopalan said India is an expert in launching small satellites and has been trying to capture this market, marketing itself as a satellite launch facility.

With the war in Ukraine still raging, this could open up an opportunity for India as many countries shun Russian launch services.

“It could boost this trend in a big way,” she said.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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