India ISRO satellites

India’s ISRO Launches Record 104 Satellites Onboard A Single Rocket

India is in the process of creating a space record after it sent a rocket with an astounding 104 satellites into space, Russia Today reports. The launch is underway and a live stream of the launch can be seen below. As of this writing, the launch is going as planned.

Update: The mission has been declared a success with all 104 satellites successfully injected into their respective orbits.

Once the mission is completed successfully, India will create a new record for the most number of satellites sent in one go. The previous record was held by Russia, who, in 2014, launched 39 satellites in one go. The PSLV rocket that India is using for this mission has a proven track record of successful space missions and has been in the past used for India’s much-talked-about space missions to the moon and to Mars. While most of the 104 satellites will be small micro-satellites, there is also one large satellite that weighs 714 kg, and 103 smaller “nano-satellites” with a combined weight of 664 kg. The rocket took off from the Sriharikota spaceport.

The main satellite is a domestically built observation satellite from the Cartosat series. As evident from its name, it would be used to serve India’s domestic mapping needs. The other 104 micro-satellites belong to a large number of countries including the likes of the Netherlands, UAE, and Kazakhstan. The U.S. is also playing a crucial role in the launch and has designed 96 of the micro-satellites. In fact, most of the micro satellites have been designed by a single U.S.-based company called Planet. According to The Verge, Planet is a U.S.-based private imaging company that sees itself monitoring the Earth continuously from space. These micro-satellites from Planet are called “Doves” and are miniaturized space probes that are capable of capturing detailed, high-resolution images of the Earth from space. The company already has 50 such satellites already orbiting the earth. The addition of these 80-plus satellites is believed to greatly enhance Planet’s capabilities.

India has a very ambitious space program that traces its roots back to the 1960s. The ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) is India’s version of NASA and has in the past few years become one of the most successful space agencies with several successful missions to its credit. Back in 2008, India made it clear that its space ambitions did not stop at sending weather and imaging satellites. That year, the ISRO successfully sent its first mission to the moon — the Chandrayaan. In 2014, India followed it up with the launch of its maiden Mars mission called the Mangalyaan or the Mars Orbiter Mission, and in the process became the only country to successfully send a mission to Mars in the very first attempt. What was more remarkable was the sheer frugality of India’s Mars mission. At less than $70 million, the entire Mars Mission had a lower budget than the Hollywood movie Gravity, released in 2013 — the same year the Mars mission was launched.

While there are several critics of the Indian space programme, it has largely received laurels from across the globe. In fact, with its trusted PSLV launcher, the ISRO has enabled several other countries to send their own satellites at a lower cost. According to experts, India can put a satellite into space at a cost that would be 60 to 70 percent lower compared to competition. This is mainly because of the fact that Indian scientists draw comparatively much lower salaries and that the entire setup is state-run.

While India is looking towards the future in optimism, it has still some time to go before it starts sending much heavier satellites into orbit. The country still does not have its own cryogenic engine that can lift much heavier loads.

That however, doesn’t seem to have deterred Indian scientists who plan to send another probe to the moon in 2018 – a decade after its first lunar mission. This time though, India will also send a wheeled rover to the moon which would be used to collect samples. The ISRO is also planning missions to Mars, Venus and even the Sun. The country also plans a manned mission to the moon – but it is not being touted as a priority now. More recently, India also tested a reusable launch vehicle – a small vehicle that resembles the U.S. Space Shuttle.

[Featured Image by India Out/AP Images]