Bharti group-backed OneWeb and New Space India Limited, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation, have entered into an agreement that will help ensure OneWeb completes its satellite launch programme.
The first launch with New Space India is expected in 2022 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota.
The launches will add to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite communications firm OneWeb's total in-orbit constellation of 428 satellites -- 66 per cent of the planned total fleet -- to build a global network that will deliver high-speed, low-latency connectivity.
Announcing the pact for the satellite launch programme with New Space India, OneWeb, in a statement on Thursday, said it remains on track for developing its satellite constellation network, delivering industry-grade secure connectivity.
"This is yet another historic day for collaboration in space, thanks to the shared ambition and vision of New Space India and OneWeb.
"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," Sunil Bharti Mittal, OneWeb executive chairman, said.
It is pertinent to mention that OneWeb, where Bharti Group is the largest shareholder, had previously decided to suspend all launches from Russia-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in March, in the backdrop of Ukraine-Russia conflict.
The decision to suspend the launches from Baikonur had come after Moscow's space agency Roscosmos asked for guarantees that the satellites and the technology would not be used for military purposes.
OneWeb, the LEO satellite communications company, is owned in part by the UK government.
On March 16, OneWeb informed that it has received the Letter of Intent (LoI) for GMPCS licence from the telecom department, but also admitted that the "recent developments" have led to a few launch delays, which will impact service introduction to lower latitude regions, including India (where timelines were previously seen at mid-2022).
OneWeb had, however, exuded confidence that the delay will not be too prolonged.
The latest launch contract with New Space India comes close on the heels of a separate agreement announced in March 2022 between OneWeb and SpaceX to enable the company to resume satellite launches.
"OneWeb has already activated service with 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," the company said.
The terms of the agreement with New Space India have not been disclosed.
Meanwhile, Indian Space Association (ISpA) welcomed the new partnership and said it has the potential to drive the attention of many international players towards India's capabilities.
"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 per cent currently, and at the same time contribute to nation building and economic growth of the country," AK Bhatt, director general, Indian Space Association (ISpA) said in a statement.
The association termed the partnership between OneWeb and NewSpace India Limited as a historic development and said it will pave the way for a greater participation of private space players, resulting a boost to the Indian space economy.