India’s space agency will next month attempt to launch 104 satellites from a single rocket, a mission that could land it in the record books.
The Indian Space Research Organization plans to use its workhorse, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, to carry three satellites from India, and 101 smaller nano satellites from five countries—the U.S., Netherlands, Israel, Kazakhstan and Switzerland into orbit.
If successful, ISRO’s mission would deploy the most satellites by any country in a single launch, surpassing the current record of 37 satellites sent into orbit in 2014 from a single Russian space launch vehicle. A National Aeronautics and Space Administration rocket carried 29 satellites in 2013.
“This mission is different (than all the previous missions) due to the complexities involved,” said B. Jayakumar, mission director at ISRO.
The PSLV rocket carrying the satellites is set to blast off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh in mid-February.
“We are not doing this launch to create any sort of record but to utilize the excess capacity available on the PSLV,” said Mr. Jayakumar. He said the satellites would have a combined payload of around 1,360 kilograms (1.36 tons).
A special strategy of releasing the satellites has been devised due to the large number involved by maintaining different angles for each satellite, he said.
He said three satellites and the heaviest of the lot belonging to India will be separated “axially along the vehicle,” he said.
This will be followed by the separation of 81 satellites in a radial direction and maintaining different angles of orientation.
“And finally the remaining 20 satellites will be released in a different sequence that has been worked out,” he said.
ISRO’s launches would further entrench India’s position as a cost-effective and reliable destination for launching satellites. In 2014, ISRO put a satellite into the orbit of Mars, becoming the first Asian country to reach the red planet, and at fraction of the cost of a similar launch in U.S. and Europe.
ISRO has so far put 122 satellites in orbit, including 43 from India and 79 from other countries. In June last year, it put 20 satellites into orbit in a single mission.
The global space industry was estimated to be worth $323 billion in 2015, the latest year for which data are available, according to the Space Foundation, a U.S.-based research group. Commercial space business comprised as much as 76% of the industry, it said.
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