By Venkatachari Jagannathan
India on Wednesday created a world record by successfully putting into orbit 104 satellites, including the country's own Cartosat-2earth observation satellite, in a single mission.
With the launch, ISRO surpassed the 37 satellite launch record set by a Russian rocket on June 19, 2014.
The co-passenger satellites comprised 101 nano satellites, one each from Israel, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the UAE and 96 from the US, as well as two nano satellites from India.
The total weight of all the satellites carried on-board is about 1,378 kg.
Multiple satellite launches with a PSLV rocket is not new for ISRO, having launched 20 satellites on June 22, 2016.
"One hundred and four satellites have been put into orbit," Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar said soon after the launch, congratulating the space agency's team on its success.
Exactly at 9.28 a.m. the PSLV-XL variant rocket standing 44.4 metres tall and weighing 320 ton tore into the morning skies with fierce orange flames at its tail.
Gathering speed every second, the rocket raced towards the heavens amidst the cheers of the ISRO officials and the media team assembled at the rocket port at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.
President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Sonia Gandhi have congratulated ISRO on the success. Science and Technology Minister Harsh has also congratulated ISRO.
Congratulations to ISRO on the successful launch of PSLV β C37, carrying a record 104 satellites #PresidentMukherjeeβ President of India (@RashtrapatiBhvn) February 15, 2017
This day shall go down as a landmark in the history of our space programme #PresidentMukherjeeβ President of India (@RashtrapatiBhvn) February 15, 2017
Nation is proud of this achievement, which has demonstrated, yet again, Indiaβs increasing space capabilities #PresidentMukherjeeβ President of India (@RashtrapatiBhvn) February 15, 2017
I urge ISRO to continue to strive for the progress of our space capabilities #PresidentMukherjeeβ President of India (@RashtrapatiBhvn) February 15, 2017
Congratulations to @isro for the successful launch of PSLV-C37 and CARTOSAT satellite together with 103 nano satellites!β Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 15, 2017
This remarkable feat by @isro is yet another proud moment for our space scientific community and the nation. India salutes our scientists.β Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 15, 2017
Spoke to the Secretary, Department of Space and congratulated him & the entire team of scientists on today's exceptional achievement.β Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 15, 2017
Congress President, Smt. Sonia Gandhi has congratulated the scientists of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) for the...β INC India (@INCIndia) February 15, 2017
... path breaking and historic launch of 104 satellites under the PSLV-C37 / Cartosat -2 Series Mission....β INC India (@INCIndia) February 15, 2017
..India has led the world in space & scientific achievements. This momentous feat by our scientists has made the entire nation proud...β INC India (@INCIndia) February 15, 2017
..All the scientists and supporting staff of ISRO involved and instrumental in contributing to the space science research programmes..β INC India (@INCIndia) February 15, 2017
...have once again honoured the vision of our forefathers who always stood to build a scientific temper for the country, she said...β INC India (@INCIndia) February 15, 2017
... This illustrious accomplishment has added one more feather in the cap of our hard working scientists, she added.β INC India (@INCIndia) February 15, 2017
At the rocket mission control room, ISRO scientists were glued to their computer screens watching the rocket escaping the earth's gravitational pull.
Around 28 minutes into the flight, the rocket completed its birth 'karma' slinging all the 104 satellites into their intended orbits as per the scheduled sequence.
The PSLV rocket is a four stage rocket alternatively powered by solid and liquid fuel.
The Cartosat-2 satellite weighs 714 kg and has a mission life of five years.
"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.
Out of the total 226 satellites launched by ISRO with its PSLV rocket, 179 satellites were for foreign customers, said Project Director Jayakumar.
According to P. Kunhikrishnan, Director of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) three more launch missions are slated this year.
In his congratulatory tweet, the Prime Minister said: "Congratulations to ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) for the successful launch of PSLV-C37 and Cartosat satellite together with 103 nano satellites."
The President, in a message to Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar, said February 15 would "go down as a landmark" in India's space programme history.
The Congress chief in a statement said: "India has led the world in space and scientific achievements and this momentous feat by our scientists has once again made the entire nation proud."
Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan said the launch of 104 satellites in a single mission was a glimpse of the potential Indian science holds.
"The whole world now looks at India for touching lives of people with science and technology and it's philosophy of 'Vasudeva Kutumbuakam'," he said.
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be reached at email@example.com)
All photographs by PTI