Three months after creating a world record by launching 104 satellites in one go, the Indian Space Research Agency (ISRO) on Friday used the same rocket to send 31 satellites into space.
The PSLV-C38 launch vehicle carried 29 foreign satellites, one university satellite and one Cartosat-2 series remote sensing satellite — dubbed as a ‘smart eye in the sky’ — from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on Friday morning. The 712-kg Cartosat-2 series satellite, which was the main payload on the rocket, is similar in design and configuration to the five similar satellites that were launched earlier and will be used for similar cartographic applications.
The previous satellite in that series was launched almost exactly a year earlier on PSLV-C34. At that time, the rocket had carried 20 satellites, the most by ISRO on a single flight at that time. Friday’s launch was another demonstration of the high capability of the heavier XL-version of the PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) rocket which has been successfully used multiple times in the last couple of years to launch many satellites.
The same rocket, PSLV-C37, in its previous flight in February, had made a world record, delivering 104 satellites into space.
The next highest number of satellites to be launched on a single rocket is only 37, achieved by the Dnepr rocket of Russia in June 2014. The other satellites carried on Friday’s flight included 10 from the US, three each from UK, Belgium and Italy, and one each from Austria, Chile, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia.
The latest remote sensing satellite has a resolution of 0.6 metres, which means it can spot even smaller objects. “It can recognise objects within that square (0.6 m by 0.6 m)”, an ISRO official told PTI. “Defence surveillance will get a leg-up. It can be used to identify terrorist camps,” the official said.
Once this satellite becomes operational, it would be “handed over” to the defence forces, which have their own “set up” to access data, the official said.