India has created history today by successfully launching 104 satellites on a single mission, overtaking the previous record for most spacecraft launched at a single attempt, which currently stands at the thirty-eight orbited by a Dnepr in June 2014, of which thirty-two were deployed from the rocket itself while a thirty-third failed to separate. Four of the Dnepr’s remaining five satellites were deployed later from one of the larger payloads and one of the mission’s CubeSats also released a sub-satellite. Salute to ISRO scientists!
Russia’s Dnepr mission held the record of 33 satellites launched in 2014, trailed by NASA’s 29 the year before. India put 20 in orbit in 2016, until now its biggest ever single launch. There were 208 satellites launched in 2014, almost double the amount the year before.
The workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C37) today lifted 104 satellites into space as part of an Earth observation initiative when it took off at 9:28 a.m. Indian Standard Time (03:58 UTC) from Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, a tiny barrier island in south-eastern India.
These 104 satellites will be used to map the Earth, track ships to monitor illegal fishing and piracy, as well as conduct microgravity experiments without making an expensive trip out to the International Space Station. The heaviest of them — India’s CartoSat-2D — weighs 714 kilograms and the lightest — the Nayif — just 1.1 kilograms.
These small satellites — weighing a total of 664 kilograms — include 88 from San Francisco-based Planet Labs Inc. as well as others built by companies and universities in Israel, Kazakhstan, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates. Of the 101 foreign satellites launched today, 96 were from the United States of America. Since launching satellites requires a lot of fuel, which increases the cost significantly, these lightweight nanosatellites have become increasingly popular. Nanosatellites are small satellites that have a mass between one and 10 kilograms.
Cartosat-2 is a series of panchromatic Earth imaging satellites, deriving from the original Cartosat-2 spacecraft which was launched in January 2007. A successor to the earlier Cartosat-1 mission and part of the Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) program, Cartosat-2 was a high-resolution imaging spacecraft operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). In addition to its panchromatic imager, Cartosat-2D is also equipped with a multispectral imaging payload which was introduced to the series with the previous mission, Cartosat-2C.
India’s Space Programme started in 1962 from Mary’s Magdalene Church, which was used as the office and the laboratory of Thumba Equatorial rocket launch station. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was formed in 1969. ISRO built India’s first satellite, Aryabhata, which was launched by the Soviet Union on 19 April 1975. It was named after the Mathematician Aryabhata. In 1980, Rohini was to become the first satellite to be placed in orbit by an Indian-made launch vehicle, SLV-3.
ISRO sent one lunar orbiter, Chandrayaan-1, on 22 October 2008 and one Mars orbiter, Mars Orbiter Mission, which successfully entered Mars orbit on 24 September 2014, making India the first nation to succeed on its first attempt, and ISRO the fourth space agency in the world as well as the first space agency in Asia to successfully reach Mars orbit.
India’s Mangalyaan probe forced the world to take note of India’s space program, which was set up in 1962. The probe was famously sent to the Red Planet in 2014 for $74 million — less than the $100 million than Hollywood spent making space thriller “Gravity.” The Mangalyaan now has pride of place on India’s new 2,000 rupee note.
Many private companies are developing satellites that they need for their operations, but most cannot afford to launch these independently. India’s ability to launch multiple satellites in a single mission has also put it on firm footing in the global market. So far India has only been launching small and light foreign satellites, using the PSLV, which has become its most reliable launch vehicle, with 36 consecutive successful launches so far. But launching heavier satellites is where the big money is, which is why many players are even reducing the price of their rocket launches to bag more deals. India has been launching heavy satellites on its Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) but so far it has only been used for domestic satellites.
If India can successfully start taking more heavy satellites to space, it could really fire up its position in a market that’s worth billions of dollars. Until yesterday, India has launched 79 satellites from 21 countries, including satellites from big companies like Google and Airbus, earning India at least $157 million, according to government figures.
Image Source: Internet