The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) created history on Wednesday, as it launched a record set of 104 satellites by Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) in a single mission from Sriharikota in southern Indian Province of Andhra Pradesh.
The PSLV-C37, carrying the 104 satellites, was lifted off from the first launch pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota at 9.28am (Indian Time). Seventeen minutes later, the rocket started placing the satellites into orbit, one by one with a time-frame of about 11 minutes.
Soon after the ISRO hurled three Indian and 101 small foreign satellites into space using the PSLV, Chairperson of the Organisation Aluru Seelin Kiran Kumar congratulated the Indian scientists, saying that no other country in the world has ever tried to hit a century in a single mission. According to the ISRO chief, 101 small foreign satellites included 96 from the US and one each from Israel, the UAE, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Kazakhstan.
He stressed: “We are not looking at it as a record or anything. We are just trying to maximise our capability with each launch and trying to utilise that launch for the ability it has got and get the maximum in return.” He claimed that 90 minutes was the total time taken for the mission and 1,350kg was the total payload mass. The satellites were separated from the launch vehicle in different directions.
Speaking at a press conference, Kiran Kumar said that successful launching of 104 satellites would certainly encourage the Indian space scientists who planned to send a rocket to Venus for the first time and re-visit the Red Planet in near future. According to the chairperson, ISRO bettered the previous world record by a two-and-a-half times, as Russia had rocketed 37 satellites in a single launch via a modified inter-continental ballistic missile in 2014. In the past, 20 was the highest number of satellites launched by ISRO in one go, while US space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) sent 29 in a single mission.
Meanwhile, the ISRO boss thanked Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for helping the Organisation capture the multi-billion dollar world launcher market by giving the Department of Space a whopping 23% increase in his General Budget for the 2017-18 financial year. While presenting the Budget in the Lower House of the Indian Parliament on February 1, the minister also mentioned provisions for ‘Mars Orbiter Mission II and Mission to Venus’ under the Space Sciences Section. Kiran Kumar believes that the government’s decision will help India set a new benchmark for the space fairing nations.
Commenting on the ISRO’s future missions, the senior space scientist said that they would begin the second mission to Mars in 2021-22 as per existing plans. He revealed that ISRO might put a robot on the surface of the Red Planet. Kiran Kumar informed the media that the French space agency was interested in collaborating with India in making the ‘Mars Rover’. However, he did not confirm whether the ISRO would accept France’s proposal.
During his recent visit to India, Director (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) of NASA Michael M Watkins told ISRO scientists that they would share NASA’s telematics module with India so that the Indian satellites could talk to each other. As far as India’s maiden mission to Venus is concerned, Kiran Kumar said that it would be a modest orbiter mission.