CHENNAI: There are many things you can miss in this world, but a night launch by ISRO is not one of them. Pitch black skies around Sriharikota lit up at precisely 9.58 PM on Friday, providing skywatchers a fantastical view of what a shooting star might look like - if it suddenly decided to return to the realms of its birth. The PSLV-C28 had embarked on its 30th launch - ferrying its heaviest commercial load yet - a whopping 1440 kg.
17 minutes later, the first of the five UK built satellites - DMC3-1 was injected into its intended orbit. The next two minutes saw the next four - DMC3-2, 3, CBNT-1 and De-OrbitSail injected. All in textbook precision.
All through what we have been conditioned to think of as nail bitingly nervous moments, the mission control room presented a picture of not just calm, but even a few seeming moments of complacency - a sign of just how far the PSLV mission has come in its 23 years of history. For the technicians who oversaw the mission, it was business as usual.
So much so, that even the successful completion of yet another record breaking mission - the payload is twice as heavy as the last heaviest launch - saw none of the jubilant celebrations that years of Hollywood has conditioned us to expect. The announcement of the launch's success saw brief, muted applause and a four sentence acknowledgement from a smiling ISRO Chairman - A S Kiran Kumar.
"An entirely successful launch for a customer. This time we had to develop a new set of tools to complete the mission," he said. "Five satellites have been put into orbit," he said on a mission that saw the ISRO build two completely new platforms, the L-adaptor and the Multiple Satellite Adapter-Version 2(MSA-V2) in order to fit in the three 3 m high DMC3 Constellation satellites.
The DMC3 constellation - the DMC3-1, 2 and 3, has been built by the Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) and are advanced optical earth observation satellites designed to make high-spatial resolution and high temporal resolution images of the Earth. These satellites are designed to image any target on the Earth's surface every day.
The other two, the CBNT-1 and the De-OrbitSail, are smaller experimental satellites. The 91 kg CBNT-1 is an optical Earth Observation technology demonstration micro satellite built by the SSTL. The 7 kg De-OrbitSail is the more interesting one - with a mission brief to demonstrate how a large thin membrane shell can be used in drag deorbiting a satellite.
The mission was launched as part of an agreement between DMC International Imaging(Owned by SSTL) and the commercial arm of the ISRO - Antrix Corporation.