ISRO Planning to Launch 68 Satellites in One Mission

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is all set to launch 68 satellites in one mission in the beginning of 2017. Antrix, the commercial arm of ISRO has received fresh orders from various countries, including a dozen from PlanetiQ, a weather forecasting satellite firm based in the United States of America. In early 2017, Antrix will be sending the 68 satellites which will be nano in nature into the orbit. The earlier record of launching many satellites together was when Antrix successfully launched 20 satellites in a single mission in June.

ISRO has already launched 74 foreign satellites through Antrix in the last 15 years in its dependable workhorse the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). PSLV-C34 was used to launch satellites for countries like Belgium, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Israel and the US. It had a combined weight of 1,288 kg when launched from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.

Antrix is also all set to launch an earth observation satellite.  “We also got an order to launch a heavier earth observation satellite from an overseas customer”, said Sasibhushan, Chairman and Managing Director of Antrix Corporation. The name of the country wanting to launch the satellite has not yet been disclosed.

The Satellites

  • The 68 satellites will be smaller and nano satellites.
  • The payloads will include instruments for experiments, image capturing, transmitting signals for communication, data generation, earth observation, weather conditions and remote sensing.
  • The idea behind launching so many satellites is optimal utilisation of the rocket space which in turn will result in achieving economies of scale.
  • As per Antrix, an estimated 2,500 satellites will be launched in the next decade.
  • These satellites will be launched to meet the increased requirement of countries in areas like navigation, maritime, surveillance etc.
  • Antrix plans to gear up to meet the increase in demand of launching satellites for various purposes.

ISRO will also be launching the GSLV Mk-II rocket (Geosynchrnous Satellite Launch Vehicle) in September. Once operational GSLV Mk-II rocket will launch two-tonne and above satellites and place them 36,000 Km away from earth in the geo-stationary orbits. The GSLV Mk-II will also have a weather satellite on board when launched in September.

Sasibhushan said, “We are looking for commercial operations of GSLV for which the indigenous cryogenic engines are getting ready to launch more satellites to the geo-orbits.”

Conclusion

With an increase in the requirement of countries to launch their own satellites for various purposes, India is also very much in the run to take advantage of the multi-billion dollar launch market. Apart from the shortage of rockets and launchers, India is also cost effective for many countries due to the subsidies granted by the government in the space programmes. Sasibhushan said, “Antrix has been attracting the world’s attention for low-cost and flawless launch capabilities of satellites. PSLV is very commercially competitive and it is the reason it has attracted interest among many countries and organisations which wanted their own satellites in the space,”

In reply to concerns by certain sections in the US about ISRO launches as it is being subsidised by the government, Sasibhushan said, “All launches are subsidised, it is not that we are  subsidising or somebody else is subsidising. These government subsidies in the form of R&D investment comes in all launch  programmes., now some private industries have come up who have  started questioning, let them question.”

He reiterated that India was geared up to compete with the world and their services would indeed be flawless.

It is indeed good news for India that we are now capable enough to exploit the multibillion dollar launch market. More foreign exchange in earning can only mean good news for the Indian economy. Competition from global players such as BlueOrigin, Firefly Systems, Rocket Lab and SpaceX, will only see ISRO working harder towards providing the best of services at cost effective prices. Three Cheers to ISRO!!

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