The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Wednesday launched a record 104 satellites in one shot on board its workhorse rocket system, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). Flying its 39th mission since it became operational in 1993, the PSLV — called PSLV-C37 for Wednesday’s mission — delivered into space a payload of 1,378 kg in its 38th consecutive successful flight. ISRO’s earth observation Cartosat-2 satellite (714 kg), from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, and its two “technology demonstration” nano satellites (INS-1 and 2) were the only Indian payloads on PSLV-C37. The rest were commercial launches for international customers, through agreements with ISRO’s commercial arm Antrix Corporation. Of the 101 foreign satellites launched by PSLV on Wednesday, 96 are from the US — including 88 from the start-up, Planet Labs, a San Francisco-based earth imaging company — while one satellite each is from the Netherlands, Switzerland, Israel, Kazakhstan and the UAE. All but eight of the satellites launched today, and nearly 50 others in the last few years, were meant for commercial applications and belonged to private companies, none of which are Indian. While privately-operated satellites are still not allowed to offer commercial applications in India, that is likely to change now. “PSLV-C37 lifted off as planned at 9:28 am IST. After a flight of 16 minutes 48 seconds, the satellites achieved a polar Sun Synchronous Orbit of 506 km inclined at an angle of 97.46 degree to the equator (very close to the intended orbit) and in the succeeding 12 minutes, all the 104 satellites successfully separated from the PSLV fourth stage in a predetermined sequence beginning with Cartosat-2 series satellite, followed by INS-1 and INS-2,’’ said ISRO in a post-launch statement. “All 104 satellites were successfully placed in orbit. My hearty congratulations to the entire ISRO team for the wonderful job they have done,” said ISRO Chairman A S Kirankumar.


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