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.
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,” Somnath added.
The launch will be a major feat in country’s space history as no exercise on this scale has been attempted before. Last year, ISRO launched record 20 satellites at one go. 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.