The previous record set by Russia in 2014 involved 37 satellites launched at one go.

ISRO hits a record century Launches PSLV C-37 with astounding 104 satellitesImage source: Doordarshan/Facebook
news Satellite Launch Wednesday, February 15, 2017 - 10:11

Carving out a place for itself in the history books, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) conducted the 39th launch of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) from the Sathish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. The 39th PSLV is hoping to set a global record by launching an astounding 104 satellites on a single rocket.

The PSLV C-37 carries a 714kg main satellite, the Cartosat-2 Series satellite for earth observation, and 103 nano-satellites together weighing 664kg. Among the 103 nano-satellites are 96 from the USA, and one each from Israel, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, Switzerland and United Arab Emirates.

At 9.28am on Wednesday, the PSLV C-37 had a normal liftoff without any complications. The PSLV-XL variant rocket standing 44.4m tall and weighing 320 ton tore into the morning skies with a deep-throated growl, breaking free of the earth's gravitational pull. After reaching an orbital altitude of 500km, the rocket began the launch of its satellites, beginning with the separation of the Cartosat-2 satellite.

"The Cartosat satellite is the fourth one in the Cartosat-2 series of earth observation satellites. Already, three are in the orbit and two more will be launched. Once all the six Cartosat-2 series satellites are launched the Cartosat-3 series would begin," an ISRO official told IANS preferring anonymity.”

This is the largest launch of multiple satellites attempted thus far. The previous record had been established in 2014 by Russia, when it launched 37 satellites. In 2013, NASA had launched 29 satellites. ISRO’s own previous record stood at 20 satellites launched in June last year.

By the 28th minute of the rocket's mission all the 104 satellites were put into orbit.

Dr. K. Sivan, Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram, had earlier told The Hindu that the large number of satellites were being launched by carefully calibrating the separation angle, time of separation and velocity of each satellite. “The satellites will be separated from the launch vehicle in different directions. The separation angle and time of separation will be such that one satellite will not collide with another.”

The establishment of this record is more than a merely a badge of pride for ISRO. According to a 2015 report by the Satellite Industry Association, the satellite manufacturing and services sector has grown from $16.6 billion in 2014-15 to $127.4 billion currently. ISRO’s commercial concern Antrix hopes to capture a large share of this sector, ramping up its current schedule of 5-6 launches a year to around 18 launches a year to gain a significant share of revenue from multiple international clients.

A successful record-breaking launch will go a long way towards setting ISRO’s reputation in the sector and giving it a pre-eminent place in the global satellite services sector.

With IANS inputs

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