ISRO to launch world record 100 satellites in the PSLV-C37 mission scheduled for February

The Isro launch will be a major feat in country’s space history as no exercise on this scale has been attempted before.

India’s space agency Isro will launch a record 103 satellites — all but three of them foreign — at one go on a single rocket in the first week of February in what will be a major feat not attempted by any country. As India looks to grab a larger slice of the lucrative commercial space market, 100 of the 103 satellites set for launch by Isro's workhorse rocket PSLV-C37 in February from from its Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh belong to foreign nations, including the US and Germany.

“We are making a century by launching over 100 satellites at one go,” S. Somnath, Director of the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), told a plenary session on the second day of the ongoing Indian Science Congress here today. The space agency had earlier planned a launch of 83 satellites in the last week of January, of which 80 were foreign ones. But with the addition of 20 more foreign satellites, the launch was delayed by a week and will now take place in first week of February, Somnath said.

The PSLV-C36 at launch. Image: ISRO

The PSLV-C36 at launch. Image: ISRO

The PSLV-C36 mission to launch the ResourceSat-2A on December 7 was the last Isro mission. The launch had no other co-passenger satellites as the orbit of the ResourceSat-2A was at a higher altitude than the orbits used by cubesats and microsatellites. There will be no other PSLV launches till the PSLV-37 launch in February 2017.

He, however, did not specify the number of countries that would launch its satellites in this mission, but said it includes nations like the US and Germany. “These will be 100 micro-small satellites, which will be launched using a PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle)-C37. The weight of the payload will be 1350 kgs, of which 500-600 kgs will be the satellite’s weight,” Mr. Somnath added. The updated payload weight is a little odd, because the payload was said to be 1,600 kg in the initial plan of launching 83 satellites.

The PSLV-C37 mission will likely see the PSLV rocket in the XL configuration, with six additional strap on boosters. The PSLV-C36 mission was the first ISRO mission to beam back footage of the launch and satellite deployment from on board cameras. If on board cameras are on the PSLV-C37 mission as well, space enthusiasts can expect exciting footage of the take off and deployment of satellites in space.

PSLV C34. Image: Isro

PSLV C34. Image: Isro

The launch will be a major feat in country’s space history as no exercise on this scale has been attempted before. Isro launched a total of 33 satellites on PSLV rockets over the course of 2016. Out of these, 20 were launched in the PSLV-C34 mission. That should put into perspective how ambitious a single launch of over a hundred satellites is. The details of the satellites are not likely to be revealed because of non disclosure agreements that Isro has signed with foreign companies.

The highest number of satellites launched in a single mission is 37, a record that Russia set in 2014. The US space agency NASA launched 29. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet South Asian satellite project, meanwhile, will take off in March.

The South Asian satellite will be a part of GSAT-9, which will be launched in March this year, M. Nageshwara Rao, Associate Director of ISRO said. The communication satellite was to be launched in December 2016, but was slightly delayed as some other satellites are to be launched before that. Sources said talks with Afghanistan to have the country on-board for the project is in its final stages.

Envisaged as a gift to its neighbours, the project, earlier known as SAARC satellite, faced stiff resistance from Pakistan. The neighbouring country wanted it to be launched under the aegis of the South Asian regional forum. It later backed out of the project. Apart from India, the satellite will benefit Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.

With inputs from PTI


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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