Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) created history on 15 February, 2016 by successfully launching a record 104 satellites in single mission. The 714 kg Cartosat-2 Series Satellite along with 103 co-passenger satellites were launched on board of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV-C37, on its 39th mission from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh.
- This is the thirty eighth consecutively successful mission of PSLV. The total weight of all the 104 satellites carried on-board PSLV-C37 was 1378 kg. The total number of Indian satellites launched by PSLV now stands at 46.
- Foreign Satellites: Of the 101 co-passenger satellites, 96 belong to US and remaining 5 from Israel, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, respectively. Around 90 small satellites belonged to US-based company Planet Inc. They are named ‘Doves’ and their constellation will be used to image the earth at low cost.
- Indian Satellites: India’s three satellites included earth-mapping Cartosat-2 satellite (main payload) and nano-satellites INS-1A and INS-1B.
- Cartosat-2 Satellites
- It was the primary payload of the mission. It is similar to the earlier four satellites in Cartosat-2 Series. It weighs 714 kg and has a mission life of five years.
- The imagery from the Cartosat-2 series satellite will be useful for cartographic applications, urban and rural applications, coastal land use and regulation, utility management like road network monitoring, water distribution, creation of land use maps, change detection to bring out geographical and manmade features and various other Land Information System (LIS) and Geographical Information System (GIS) applications.
- The data sets could be used for urban planning of 500 cities under the AMRUT Planning Scheme. The government initiative of 100 smart city programme in which these data sets could be used for master plan preparation and detailed geospatial data preparation for rural roads and infrastructure development.
- INS-1A and INS-1B Satellites
- They are nanosatellites. INS-1A was carrying Surface Bidirectional Reflectance Distribution Function Radiometer and INS-1B was carrying Earth Exosphere Lyman Alpha Analyser as payloads.
- Launch Process: In this mission, PSLV first launched the Cartosat-2 and then its 103 co-passengers (together weighing about 664 kg) into the polar Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO), about 520 km from the Earth.
- Launch Vehicle: For this mission, ISRO had used XL Variant of PSLV rocket standing 44.4 metres tall and weighing 320 tonnes. It is most powerful rocket of ISRO and earlier was used in launching ambitious Chandrayaan and Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM).
- Records Broken:
- This mission beat the previous record held by Russia, which in 2014 had catapulted 37 satellites in a single launch, using a modified inter-continental ballistic missile.
- It also broke ISRO’s previous national record set in June 2016, after it had successfully launched 20 satellites, including 13 from the US in single mission.
- Satellite Release: The Cartosat-2 series satellite will be the first, and the two Indian nano-satellites, INS-1A and INS-1B will follow. The other satellites, including the 88 ‘Dove’ satellites, will then be released in pairs over a period of 10 minutes. At the time of separation from the rocket, the satellites will be travelling at more than 7.5 km per second.
Significance of the Launch
- The rocket is carrying almost 3 times the record number of satellites launched in a single mission — Russia’s Dnepr rocket carried 37 payloads in June 2014. In January that year, American company Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares rocket flew with 34 satellites; the Dnepr had carried 32 payloads in November 2013. On June 20 last year, ISRO’s PSLV-C34 launched 20 satellites.
- This mission involved many technical challenges like realising the launch of a large number of satellites during a single mission within the time frame sought by the customers from abroad.
- Besides, ensuring adequate separation between all the 104 satellites during their orbital injection as well as during their subsequent orbital life was yet another challenge associated with this complex mission.
- With today’s successful launch, the total number of customer satellites from abroad launched by India’s workhorse launch vehicle PSLV has reached 180.