|By Nilova Roy Chaudhury||February 2017|
New Delhi. In an event that has literally created a milestone in India’s journey to explore the final frontier, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) on Wednesday, February 15, scripted history by successfully launching 104 satellites on a single rocket from the spaceport in Sriharikota. A world record, this is the highest number of satellites ever launched in a single mission, firmly establishing India as a competent, mature space power on par with a handful of the most developed nations of the world.
The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C37) blasted off at 9:28 AM from the first launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre and injected the Cartosat-2 series satellite into orbit before sending the other 103 nano satellites, including 96 from the U.S, into orbit with a gap of around 30 minutes.
With scientists at the Mission Control centre breaking into cheers, ISRO Chairman A S Kiran Kumar said, “All 104 satellites successfully placed in orbit. My hearty congratulations to the entire ISRO team for the wonderful job they have done.”
President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were among the earliest to congratulate the scientists at ISRO for the accomplishment.
Earlier, the Russian Space Agency had launched 37 satellites in one go. ISRO had earlier launched 23 satellites in a single mission in June 2015.
The complex mission at the end of the 28-hour countdown Wednesday involves the PSLV-C37 injecting the 714 kg Cartosat-2 series satellite into orbit, followed by ISRO’s nano satellites INS-1A and INS-1B in an 505 km polar Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO), the ISRO statement explained.
This was followed by the launch of the other 101 nano satellites belonging to foreign customers, in blocks in a series of separations. INS-1A and INS-1B will carry a total of four different payloads from Space Applications Centre (SAC) and Laboratory for Electro Optics Systems (LEOS) of ISRO for conducting various experiments, ISRO stated.
The Cartosat-2 series satellite, with a mission life of five years, will send images that would assist coastal land use and regulation, road network monitoring, distribution of water, creation of land use maps among others.
Of the 101 co-passenger satellites, 96 belong to the United States while five others are from ISRO’s international customers including Israel, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates. The nano-satellites from other countries have been launched as part of the arrangement between international customers and Antrix Corporation Ltd (ANTRIX) the commercial arm of ISRO.
Kiran Kumar also said that ISRO was enabling the MARS Orbiter Mission to survive a long eclipse duration after which it would function for at least 2-3 years unless “we encounter any more difficulties”.
“Now we are targeting GSLV MkII and then Mk III…a series of launch activities planned to ensure like last year this year also we have many exciting events coming,” he said.
PSLV-C37 Project Director B Jayakumar said it was a “great moment for each and every one of us. It is confirmed all 104 satellites have been successfully deployed in the orbit. So far ISRO has launched 226 satellites out of which 179 are from foreign nations.”
He said launching 104 satellites onboard a single rocket was a complex mission. “But our teams came up with very good solutions. It is excellent team work.”
This is the first time any country has launched such a large cluster of satellites at one go.
In the run up to the mission, ISRO confirmed its mega-launch program on 15th of this month, setting off a total of 104 satellites to space, as one of the organisation’s most awaited launch programs. All satellites were placed in the earth’s lower orbit to monitor the planet and its various activities.
“We want to make optimum use of our capacity. We are launching our three satellites. One is of 730 kgs while other two are 19 kgs each. We had additional space of 600 kgs. So we decided to accommodate 101 satellites,” Kiran Kumar explained.
What is especially remarkable is that ISRO is likely to recover nearly half the cost of the Indian satellites by launching foreign satellites, the ISRO chief said.
By setting the bunch of 104 satellites afloat simultaneously, the Indian space agency has created a magnificent new world record – an achievement unparalleled by any other global space agency.