Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on February 15 successfully launched 104 satellites on a single rocket from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota island of Andhra Pradesh. After about 28 minutes of flight, all the 104 satellites were placed into the orbit. This launch has broken the previous world record set by Russia by launching 37 satellites on a single rocket.
Out of the total 104 satellites launched this time, only 3 belonged to India which includes the 714 kg “Cartosat-2” earth observation satellite, which is capable of taking high resolution images. The remaining 101 satellites are from other countries, of which 96 belong to the United States, and the other five were from Israel, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UAE. The lightest among them weighs only 1.1 kg. These nano-satellites have different tasks, such as mapping, tracking ships and microgravity experiments in space.
The difficulty in launching multiple satellites on a single rocket is releasing the satellites as per their orbital sequence within a limited span of time. According an ISRO press release, “Cartosat-2” and the two other Indian satellites were released first, followed by more than a hundred small satellites as per sequence while the rocket was moving at more than 7.5 kilometers per second speed. The key technological innovation lies in avoiding collision and crowding between the satellites, and between satellites and the rocket.
“The economic significance of this launch is far greater than its military or even scientific and technological significance”, said Dr. Rajeswari, a defense expert at India’s Observer Research Foundation in an interview with this reporter. Successfully launching 104 satellites on a single rocket has significant market value, it has greatly reduced the cost of rocket launch.
With the problem of higher costs for individual launches, multiple launches on a single rocket can share the costs. India’s First Post website quoted ISRO chairman A S Kiran Kumar as saying: “We hope to achieve maximum returns on investment by relying on multiple launches from a single rocket”.
With the global boom of communications related industries, the demand by various countries in the field of connectivity is increasingly becoming stronger, and the international space launch market is flourishing. India, through this launch, hopes to showcase its own strength in the field of low-cost satellite launching and deployment to attract more customers. At present, the Indian aerospace sector is set out to control the cost of rocket launch on the one hand, and on the other hand is stepping up efforts in indigenously developing small satellites as well as rockets with higher thrust, in the hope of minimizing the gap with the world’s space powers.
(People’s Daily, New Delhi, February 15)