India went gaga in February as the national space agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), successfully launched a record 104 satellites in a single launch. The earlier highest was for 37 satellites, launched by Russia.
ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket lifted off successfully from the Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh on February 15. Apart from India’s earth observation satellite Cartosat-2 series, the PSLV carried 103 nano satellites, 96 from the US, two from India, and one each from Israel, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UAE.
While the success no doubt also heightened the morale of ISRO scientists, the agency itself is clear that setting a world record was really not the primary objective of the launch. "Frankly ISRO does not claim it wanted to set any record," K Sivan, Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, which makes the PSLV and all other rockets for ISRO, told reporters.
Scientists said that smaller and light-weight satellites have made it possible for rockets to carry several of them, and their number is now limited only by the space available in the rocket and its carrying capacity. What is required, however, is a lot of engineering innovations for stacking the tiny satellites in the available space and ejecting them sequentially in the desired orbits without colliding with each other.
This is the achievement of ISRO's launch vehicle team that calls for celebration, the scientists noted.