SRIHARIKOTA: India on Wednesday became the first nation in the world to have launched over a hundred satellites in one mission. Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) continued to surprise the developed world with its out-of-the-box space missions that earned itself a distinct position among the space-faring nations.
In just over 30 minutes after lift-off from the first launch pad in Sriharikota at 9.28 am, the country’s workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, in its 39th flight (PSLV-C37), elegantly blazed through the blue skies and successfully deployed 104 satellites into the designated orbit setting a new world record.
In doing so, it surpassed its nearest competitor Russian space agency’s record by a whopping 67 satellites. Russia launched 37 satellites in one go in June 2014.
The heat shield of the rocket, in which all 104 satellites were trucked, first let off high resolution 714-kg Cartosat-2 series satellite, the primary payload that will provide remote sensing services using its panchromatic and multispectral cameras.
It will also assist the nation in the detection of geographic changes in a way providing a bird’s eye view of less than a metre resolution, which is of strategic importance with hostile neighbours lurking around.
What followed next was a spectacular trailblazing performance by the PSLV as the flight went into overdrive mode clocking top velocity of 7,609 m per second at an altitude of over 500 km, releasing 103 co-passenger nano satellites in pre-determined path.
The satellites achieved a polar Sun Synchronous Orbit of 506 km inclined at an angle of 97.46 degree to the equator and in the succeeding 12 minutes, all 104 satellites successfully separated from the PSLV fourth stage in a predetermined sequence beginning with Cartosat-2 series satellite,. The entire exercise was carried out in coordination with the ISRO’s ground station in Mauritius.
ISRO chairman A S Kiran Kumar said the challenge was to accommodate that much of mass and get it released in a way that they would not collide, not only now but during their mission life. For that, a unique sequencing system was used. Except for Cartosat-2D and two Indian nano satellites, the rest were assembled in 25 quad packs each containing four satellites.
K Sivan, director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), said the criticality of the mission was that there were 5,460 combinations in terms of sequencing and orientation involved and there should not be interaction with one another.
B Jayakumar, mission director, said another constraint was to deploy all the 104 satellites within a window of 10 minutes.
In all, there were 96 satellites from US-based companies and one each from Israel, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, Switzerland and United Arab Emirates, besides two nano satellites from India.
With the launch, India has taken a giant leap towards becoming a big player in multi-billion commercial satellites launch market, which until now was monopolised by a few companies such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Stephane Israel’s Arianespace, a French multinational.
India has a clear advantage in the segment, considering the fact that the ISRO’s launch technology is the world’s best costing just one-third of what SpaceX will charge.