The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Tuesday successfully launched the PSLV-C37 rocket with 104 satellites on board, creating a new record for the most satellites on a single rocket. This is the latest triumph for the famously frugal space agency, which earned plaudits from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee for the feat.
Scientists gathered for the ISRO launch in the southern spaceport of Sriharikota burst into applause as the head of the space agency announced all the satellites had been ejected.
“My hearty congratulations to the ISRO team for this success,” ISRO director Kiran Kumar told scientists who had gathered at the observatory to watch the progress of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket.
PM Modi immediately congratulated the scientists for the successful launch of 104 satellites by ISRO, which smashes a record previously held by Russia.
“This remarkable feat … is yet another proud moment for our space scientific community and the nation. India salutes our scientists,” PM Modi wrote on Twitter.
President Mukherjee wrote in a series of tweets that “this day shall go down as a landmark in the history of our space programme,” and the “nation is proud of the achievement, which has demonstrated, yet again, India’s increasing space capabilities.”
The ISRO PSLV-C37 rocket took off at 9:28am (3:58am GMT) and cruised at a speed of 27,000 kilometres (16,777) per hour, ejecting all the 104 satellites into orbit in around 30 minutes, according to the space agency.
The ISRO rocket’s main cargo was a 714 kilogram satellite for earth observation but it was also loaded with 103 smaller “nano satellites”, weighing a combined 664 kilograms.
Nearly all of the nano satellites aboard the ISRO PSLV rocket are from other countries, including Israel, Kazakhstan, The Netherlands, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and 96 from United States.
The ISRO launch means India now holds the record for launching the most satellites in one go, surpassing Russia which launched 39 satellites in a single mission in June 2014.
The business of putting commercial satellites into space for a fee is growing as phone, Internet and other companies, as well as countries, seek greater and more high-tech communications. ISRO is competing with other international players for a greater share of that launch market, and is known for its low-cost space programme.
Last June, India set a national record after it successfully launched a rocket carrying 20 satellites, including 13 from the US. It sent an unmanned rocket to orbit Mars in 2013 at a cost of just $73 million (roughly Rs. 488 crores), compared with NASA’s Maven Mars mission which had a $671 million (roughly Rs. 4,490 crores) price tag.
ISRO is also mulling the idea of missions to Jupiter and Venus. PM Modi has often hailed India’s budget space technology, quipping in 2014 that a rocket that launched four foreign satellites into orbit had cost less to make than Hollywood film “Gravity”.