India’s space agency has announced the successful launch of a record-breaking 104 nano satellites into orbit, all onboard a single rocket.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) said the milestone launch, from the Sriharikota space centre in the country’s south, overtook the 2014 Russian record of 37 satellites in a single launch.
On board was a 714kg satellite for earth observation and more than 100 smaller satellites weighing less than 10kg each.
Three were Indian-owned, 96 were from US companies, and the rest belonged to companies based in Israel, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.
Most were owned by Planet Labs Inc, a US-based Earth-imaging company. The feat did not require vastly new technology, but rather reflects the shrinking size and weight of modern satellites.
After reaching a height of about 505km, the satellites will separate from the launch vehicle at different times, angles and velocities to avoid collisions.
India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, hailed the launch on Twitter as an “exceptional achievement”.
The chair of the space agency, Kiran Kumar, said his team had not set out to break records. “We are just trying to maximise our capability with each launch and trying to utilise that launch for the ability it has got, and get the maximum in return,” he said.
The launch helps to cement India’s place as a serious player in the burgeoning private space market, expected to significantly grow as the demand for telecommunications services increases.
In September 2014 the country became just the fourth after the US, the former Soviet Union and the European Space Agency to successfully guide a spacecraft into orbit around Mars.
The Mars mission cost India’s famously thrifty space agency about $73m, nearly a 10th the cost of a Nasa probe sent to orbit the planet the previous year.
The low price tag led Modi to quip that India had sent a satellite into space for less than Americans had spent making the movie Gravity.
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