India scripts history, launches 104 satellites at one go
Recording its 38th consecutive success, ISRO's workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) injected India's weather observation Cartosat-2 Series satellite and 103 nano satellites into precise orbit in a gap of 30 minutes after a textbook lift-off from this spaceport, about 100 km from Chennai.
As the country seeks a bigger slice of the multi-billion dollar space launch industry, the Indian Space Research Organisation(ISRO) bettered Russian space agency's feat of launching 37 satellites at one go in 2014. The previous highest number of satellites launched by ISRO in one mission was 20 in June 2015.
A majority of the satellites have earth-imaging capability while the Indian cartographic satellite is capable of taking high resolution images.
Celebrations erupted among scientists at the spaceport here when the ISRO chief announced that all the satellites had been put into orbit as planned.
"All 104 satellites successfully placed in orbit. My hearty congratulations to the entire ISRO team for the wonderful job they have done," a beaming ISRO Chairman A S Kirankumar said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated ISRO for the successful launch of 104 satellites, calling it a "renarkable feat".
"Congratulations to @isro for the successful launch of PSLV-C37 and CARTOSAT satellite together with 103 nano satellites!," the Prime Minister said in a tweet.
"This remarkable feat by @isro is yet another proud moment for our space scientific community and the nation. India salutes our scientists," he said.
Cartosat-2 Series satellite, a remote sensing spacecraft with a five-year life span, would send images that would be utilised in coastal land use and regulation, road network monitoring, distribution of water, creation of land use maps among others, ISRO said.
After a flawless flight, the rocket first put into orbit 714 kg Cartosat-2 Series satellite followed by the co- passengers --ISRO's INS-1A and INS-1B, 96 other nano satellites belonging to two US companies, and one each from Israel, Kazakhstan, The Netherlands, Switzerland and the UAE. Each nano satellite weighs less than 10 kg.
The satellites were placed in the polar Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO) in a gap of about 30 minutes during a series of separations.
The complex mission once again proved ISRO's capabilities in undertaking commercial launches with the PSLV achieving its 38th consecutive success.
So far, ISRO has launched 226 satellites, including 179 belonging to foreign countries.
At the end of the 23-hour countdown, the shortest so far by ISRO, the PSLV on its 39th flight, blasted off from the first launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at 9:28 AM and soared into clear skies.
ISRO said it was able to reduce the countdown time, which normally varies upto 52 hours, as the preparations were completed in a shorter span.
Kiran Kumar said 77 of the satellites have already started communicating with the earth stations after the launch.
He said the mission was about maximising ISRO's returns and improving its capabilities.
"Through PSLV, we are trying to capture a particular segment of (space launch market)," he told the post-launch media conference.
Replying to a question, he said US firms approach ISRO for launch of smaller satellites as the frequency of PSLV launches was more by India.
Project Director B Jayakumar said ISRO had lived up to the expectations of customers.
"It was a very good learning experience for us. We have launched 226 satellites out of which 179 are from foreign nations."
With a total payload of 1378 kgs, ISRO opted for the most powerful XL variant of the PSLV for the 16th time in today's mission. It had earlier been used in the 'Chandrayaan' and the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) among others.
The nano-satellites belonging to international customers were launched as part of their arrangement with the Antrix Corporation Ltd (ANTRIX) the commercial arm of the ISRO.
CARTOSAT-2 Series satellite was similar to the earlier four satellites in the Series.
INS (ISRO Nano Satellite) 1A and 1B 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.