Launch of 104 Satellites
On 15 February 2017, India Space Research Organization created a history by launching 104 satellites on a single Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) mission. ISRO’ launch of 104 satellites on a single Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) mission kept the space community breathless and astonished. The whole flight of the PSLV-C37 rocket took nearly 29 minutes. It
is just four minutes longer than a regular PSLV that carries one or two satellites. Before this, the highest number of satellites was 37 which were launched in a single mission into space, in June 2014 by a Russian DNEPR rocket.
The PSLV became operational in 1993, and it was its 39th mission. PSLV-C37 was used for this mission that delivered a payload of 1,378 kg into space in its 38th consecutive successful flight. The greatest degree of difficulty in the mission has been attributed to the synchronous release of the satellite payload from the final stage of the PSLV rocket.
The description of the satellites which were launched is given below:
Apart from 101 foreign satellites, there were three indigenous satellites which are ISRO’s earth observation Cartosat-2 satellite (714 kg) and its two “technology demonstration” nano- satellites (INS-1 and 2). All other satellites were commercial launches for international customers, through agreements with ISRO’s commercial arm Antrix Corporation.
There were 101 foreign satellites launched by PSLV on this mission. Among them, 96 were from the USA. Out of these, 88 satellites are from the start-up, Planet Labs, a San Francisco-based earth imaging company. And one satellite is from the Netherlands, Switzerland, Israel, Kazakhstan and the UAE each.
Except eight of the satellites launched today were meant for commercial applications and belonged to private companies. Among those companies, none of which are Indian. In Indian laws, privately-operated satellites are still not allowed to offer commercial applications in India. This mission is likely to change this situation now.
Similar Experiments in recent past
ISRO also holds the record for launching the most number of satellites in one mission between 2008 and 2013. ISRO launched 10 satellites in April 2008 on board PSLV C9. This number was overtaken by NASA with the launch of 29 satellites on the Minotaur 1 rocket, in November 2013. After this, this record was broken by the Russian space agency Roscosmos State Corporation’s DNEPR rocket in November 2013 and June 2014. It launched 33 and 37 satellites respectively.
Earlier, the highest number of satellites launched on a single mission by ISRO was 20 satellites in June 2016. Here, PSLV C34 was used for this mission.
An ISRO statement said “after separation, the two solar arrays of the Cartosat-2 series satellite were deployed automatically and ISRO’s Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) at Bangalore took over the control of the satellite,’’
This is the fourth satellite which was launched in ISRO’s Cartosat-2 series. The satellite will be useful for mapping rural and urban regions, management of road networks, water distribution, regulation of coastal land use, and other several other purposes.
ISRO’s two Nano -satellites (INS-1 and 2) are taking instruments from its and Laboratory for Electro -Optics Systems (LEOS) and Space Applications Centre (SAC) for experiments.
With this landmark launch, the PSLV has put 226 satellites in space, including 46 homegrown ones and 180 foreign satellites.
Impact of the launch
The impact of this record breaking satellite launching would liberalize the use of satellite services in India. Till date, there are not flexible laws in India which allow the use of the services of private satellites. After this launch, the government of India is ready to clear the application of the first private satellite in India.
Around six-year-old application by Hughes Network will launch a communication satellite and provide broadband data services in India. The Hughes Network claims to be the world’s largest provider of broadband networks. It already offers satellite-based internet services in many markets akin to India, including Brazil.
A government official said in a statement that the issue of opening the use of private satellites from India was “being considered actively” but it was not specified that when the policy could be changed.
The government’s demonetization decision and its push for digitization may work in favor of letting private satellites offer such services. Satellite-based broadband services could be more reliable and several times faster than cabled networks that are available in India.
Hughes is not the only company in the line, and internet services are not the only services which can be offered via private satellites.
For example, Team Indus, a Bangalore-based corporation that is in a run with four other teams to send a mission to the moon and win the Google XPRIZE competition is planning for a future in which it would be able to send its own satellites for different kinds of applications. It is already in the way of creating a communication satellite of its own.
ISRO itself is willing a greater participation from private companies in satellite building as it wants to remain focused on its core area of space research.