Isro adds another passenger to the PSLV-C37 mission, 104 satellite launch rescheduled to mid February

The Isro plan to launch over a hundred satellites in a single Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) mission just keeps getting more ambitious.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) plan to launch over a hundred satellites in a single Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) mission that just keeps getting more ambitious. Initially the PSLV-C37 mission was scheduled for the last week of January, with 83 satellites on board. Another 20 satellites were added, and the launch pushed to the first week of February. Now it has emerged that yet another satellite is being squeezed in, and the launch date is tentatively set to 15 February.

PSLV C34. Image: Isro

PSLV C34 taking off. Image: Isro

Of the 104 satellites on board, 101 are from foreign countries. There are likely to be a number of satellites that are to form a constellation or flock of satellites. The PSLV-C34 mission which successfully launched 20 satellites, put into sun-synchronous orbit a flock of Dove satellites. The constellation was known as Dove Flock-2p, and were a cluster of 12 micro-satellites from Planet Labs. The satellites will be launched at an altitude of 500 km.

The Dove 2 Spacecraft. Image: Planet Labs Inc.

The Dove 2 Spacecraft. Image: Planet Labs Inc.

There are three Indian satellites on board. The main satellite is the CartoSat-2D, which is to be used for defense and strategic purposes. The earth observation satellites have new and improved imaging technologies. There are currently five CartoSat satellites in orbit, which are part of India's remote sensing program. The last CartoSat launch was in the 20 satellite PSLV-C34 mission. The CartoSat series are developed indigenously in India.

The CartoSat-2C image: Isro

The CartoSat-2C image: Isro

The payload weight for the current launch after the addition of a nanosatellite is not known. The payload was calculated at 1350 kgs for the launch, a number that surprisingly reduced from the 1600 kgs announced when there were only 83 satellites to be launched in the mission. Isro will ensure that the satellites will not collide with each other on release, by changing the degree of the angle at which the satellite batches will be launched. A one degree difference in release is sufficient to ensure that the satellites do not collide.


From left to right, the Dnepr, the Minotaur 1 and the Antares

The current record holder is Russia with 37 satellites launched on a single Dnepr rocket in 2014. Nasa has managed to launch 29 rockets on an Orbital Sciences Minotaur 1 rocket in late 2013. An Orbital Sciences Antares rocket took up 34 CubeSats to the International Space Station in early 2014, from where they were released periodically, but that does not count in the records as the satellites were not launched directly by the rocket.

ISRO chairman Alur Seelin Kiran Kumar. Image: ISRO.

ISRO chairman Alur Seelin Kiran Kumar. Image: ISRO.

Although the 104 rocket launch by Isro will shatter previous records, ISRO Chairman AS Kiran Kumar has said that the agency is more interested in boosting capacity as against setting records. "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" A S Kiran Kumar said, on the sidelines of the Karnataka ICT Summit 2017.

The Cryogenic Engine of the GSLV MARk III. Image: ISRO.

The Cryogenic Engine of the GSLV Mark III. Image: ISRO.

The PSLV-C37 launch will be the first mission by Isro in 2017. The first quarter will see exciting GSLV launches with the new cryogenic engines. There are many PSLV launches planned over the course of the year, at the rate of two a month. The final mission for the year will be on 28 December, which will see TeamIndus from India and Haukuto from Japan ridesharing on the same PSLV in an attempt to bag the $30 million Google Lunar Xprize.


This story is a part of a series on the world record launch of 104 satellites on a single mission by Isro. The stories in the series are: 

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