ndia set a record here on Monday when its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C9) fired 10 satellites into orbit in a precisely timed sequence.
As each satellite winged out of the vehicle, it had to be re-oriented to prevent collision. The feat proved the versatility, reliability and flexibility of the PSLV. This was the 13th PSLV flight and the 12th successful one in a row.
A jubilant G. Madhavan Nair, chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), told a press conference after the launch: “This is a memorable occasion for ISRO and India. We have set a record for launching 10 satellites into orbit [using a single vehicle]. Very few countries have done it. Russia launched 13 satellites at a time. We do not know the result. We have shown the world that we can do multiple launches in a precise manner. We are thrilled at the performance.”
India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) is proving to be hugely versatile. On April 28, the launcher successfully carried no fewer than 10 satellites and ejected them with precision into their designated orbits. Since its first successful launch in 1994, the rocket has gone from strength to strength. In the course of 12 flights, the PSLV has carried 10 Indian remote sensing satellites, 14 small satellites for foreign customers (including eight launched on Monday), an amateur radio satellite, a meteorological satellite, and the country’s first recoverable space capsule. There have also been two dedicated launches carrying foreign satellites. Later this year, the highly dependable rocket will take Chandrayaan-1, India’s first lunar probe, on the first leg of its voyage to the Moon.
Although the rocket has earned an enviable reputation as a rugged workhorse, India is still a relatively small player in a commercial market dominated by launch vehicles like Europe’s Ariane 5 that can carry heavy communication satellites. This is not a market segment that can be served either by the PSLV or the current generation of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV). India can begin to think of competing in this area only when the next generation GSLV Mark-III becomes operational. Its first flight could take place in a year or two from now, according to the latest annual report of the Department of Space. The PSLV has proved to be a terrific asset, but Indian launch vehicles have quite some distance to travel and bigger payloads to transport before they can take on the best in the world.
Kudos to ISRO!