ISRO: What Does The Launch Of 104 Satellites Signify?

On 15 February 2017, India Space Research Organization created a history by launching 104 satellites on a single Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) mission. ISRO’ launch of 104 satellites on a single Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) mission kept the space community breathless and astonished. The whole flight of the PSLV-C37 rocket took nearly 29 minutes. It is just four minutes longer than a regular PSLV that carries one or two satellites.

Before this, the highest number of satellites was 37 which were launched in a single mission into  space, in June 2014 by a Russian DNEPR rocket. The PSLV became operational in 1993, and it was its 39th mission. PSLV-C37 was used for this mission that delivered a payload of 1,378 kg into space in its 38th consecutive successful flight. The greatest degree of difficulty in the mission has been attributed to the synchronous release of the satellite payload from the final stage of the PSLV rocket. The description of the satellites which were launched is given below:

Apart from 101 foreign satellites, there were three indigenous  satellites which are ISRO’s earth observation Cartosat-2 satellite (714 kg) and its two “technology demonstration” nano- satellites (INS-1 and 2).  All other satellites were commercial launches for international customers, through agreements with ISRO’s commercial arm Antrix Corporation.

There were 101 foreign satellites launched by PSLV on this mission. Among them, 96 were from the USA. Out of these, 88 satellites are from the start-up, Planet Labs, a San Francisco-based earth imaging company. And one satellite is from the Netherlands, Switzerland, Israel, Kazakhstan and the UAE each.

Except eight of the satellites launched today were meant for commercial applications and belonged to private companies. Among those companies, none of which are Indian.  In Indian laws, privately-operated satellites are still not allowed to offer commercial applications in India. This mission is likely to change this situation now.

ISRO also holds the record for launching the most number of satellites in one mission between 2008 and 2013. ISRO launched 10 satellites in April 2008 on board PSLV C9. This number was overtaken by NASA with the launch of 29 satellites on the Minotaur 1 rocket, in November 2013.  After this, this record was broken by the Russian space agency Roscosmos State Corporation’s DNEPR rocket in November 2013 and June 2014. It launched 33 and 37 satellites respectively.

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