India’s Journey to the Stars: ‘ISRO sets a World Record by launching 104 Satellites At Once’
“Forget the US versus Russia. The real space race is taking place in Asia.” This comment came in from the CNN soon after ISRO’s (Indian Space Research Organization) recent launch. Considering the cartoon released by The New York Times after ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission launch in 2014, this news story is indeed a step in the positive direction. This is because on 15th February 2017, ISRO successfully launched 104 satellites into space, beating the world record for the highest amount of satellites launched in one go. Featuring satellites from seven countries, ISRO used the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) to carry out this task. Their recent best was 20 satellites, which was surpassed by Russia when they launched 34 satellites in 2014. Now, this event has challenged the International Space Community, which could possibly reignite a new and welcome brand of ‘space race’.1
PSLV-C37 lifted off at 9:28 am IST, as planned, from the First Launch Pad in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh. 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. The total number of Indian satellites launched now stands at 46. After separation, the two solar arrays of Cartosat-2 series satellite were deployed automatically and ISRO’s Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) at Bangalore took over the control of the satellite. Of the 103 co-passenger satellites carried by PSLV-C37, two – ISRO Nano Satellite-1 (INS-1) weighing 8.4 kg and INS-2 weighing 9.7 kg – are technology demonstration satellites from India. The remaining 101 co-passenger satellites carried were international customer satellites from the USA, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Israel, Kazakhstan and UAE. With this successful launch, the total number of customer satellites from abroad launched by India’s workhorse launch vehicle PSLV has reached 180.2
Along with CNN, many international news agencies and newspapers reported positively about this event. The Guardian mentioned how this record-breaking event would help India cement its place as a serious player in the private space market. The Washington Post exclaimed it as, “another success for the Indian Space Research Organization, which is rapidly gaining a reputation globally for its effective yet low cost emissions.” An event like this over everything shines light on the technical prowess of ISRO. This event was seriously focused on efficiency, both engineering wise and economically.3 With further plans of launching a mission to Venus and further to the extreme ends of our galaxy with Saturn and Jupiter around 2021-2022, ISRO and India looks poised at making itself the next leader in modern day Space Exploration and research.