The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is on the cusp of making history when it sends 104 satellites into orbit on its PSLV-C37 rocket on February 15 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. Only three of them are Indian satellites.
No space agency has launched such a large number of satellites in a single flight so far. (While ISRO’s PSLV launched 20 satellites last year, Russia’s Dnepr launcher holds the record for lifting 37 satellites to orbit in June 2014.)
Features of launch
The PSLV will carry a main remote-sensing satellite in the Cartosat-2 series and two small spacecraft, all for ISRO, and 101 small foreign commercial satellites.
1. The 88 cubesats are part of Planet’s earth observation constellation of 100 satellites. They weigh around 5 kg each and are called ‘Doves’ or Flock 3p.
Also for California-based Planet, it will be the record largest number of cubesats to be flown in a single launch, according to one of its executives.
What is Planet?
Planet, an earth observation company formed in 2010 by former NASA scientists, has chosen ISRO’s PSLV launch for the second time. It got its earlier set of 12 ‘Doves’ launched in June last year.
Combined with the 12 satellites of Flock 2p operating in a similar orbit, this launch will enable Planet’s 100-satellite ‘line scanner’ constellation of Doves.
2. Cartosat-2: The main passenger on PSLV-C37 will be the fourth in the Cartosat-2 series, a very high resolution Earth observation satellite of about 650 kg, and occupies roughly half the space in the launch vehicle.
3. It will carry two more Indian nano satellites, INS-1A and INS-1B, each weighing about 10 kg. They have a short lifespan of six to 12 months.
4. All the payloads will totally weigh around 1,500 kg.
5. The other co-riders are cubesats or small specialised satellites of customers from Israel, the UAE, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. They will be released separately into their orbits at around 500 km from Earth.