Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 July 2019

Indian rocket puts 29 satellites in space

Domestic satellite plus 24 from the US, two from Lithuania and one each from Spain and Switzerland positioned in three orbits in Monday's launch

ISRO Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle lifts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh. AFP
ISRO Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle lifts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh. AFP

An Indian rocket on Monday placed domestic and foreign satellites in three different orbits on a single flight, a first for the nation and a low-cost option that could burnish its reputation for pioneering affordable options in space.

The launch of a domestic intelligence satellite and 28 foreign ones came less than a week after India used an anti-satellite missile to take down one of its own satellites, demonstrating a capability only China, Russia and the United States had possessed previously.

The state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said 24 satellites from the US, two from Lithuania and one each from Spain and Switzerland were positioned in Monday's launch, in addition to India's Emisat satellite.

People gather to watch the Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C45) launching India's Electromagnetic Spectrum Measurement satellite 'EMISAT' -- along with 28 satellites from other countries including Lithuania, Spain, Switzerland and the US -- at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, in Andhra Pradesh state, on April 1, 2019. / AFP / ARUN SANKAR
People watch the ISRO PSLV-C45 launching 29 satellites at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh state. AFP

"This particular mission is very special for ISRO," its chairman, K Sivan, said after the launch from India's south-eastern state of Andhra Pradesh.

"This is for the first time the PSLV is carrying out three orbital missions in a single flight," he said, referring to the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle family of rockets.

Mr Sivan, who previously told media the "three-in-one" launch would help cut costs, said the agency aimed to complete 30 more missions this year, including India's second lunar exploration programme known as the Chandrayaan-2.

Among the satellites in Monday's launch are 20 Earth-imaging satellites of Planet Labs, a private satellite operator based in San Francisco, Reuters reported.

Two of the satellites, one from Lithuania and another from Switzerland, will be used for the Internet of Things, or connecting physical devices to the web, the agency added.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the agency on the launch and said his government was working on raising citizens' interest in science and their respect for scientists.

In the UAE, the space sector is growing rapidly. Construction in space using 3D printing, the creation of “bionic” plants and generating water on Mars are just three of the research projects supported by a Dubai research foundation.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Centre for Accelerated Research (MBRCAR), an initiative of the Dubai Future Foundation (DFF), has funded multiple initiatives around the world with an environmental focus and with applications on Earth as well as in space.

The research has been undertaken as part of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Settlement Challenge in collaboration with a new research funding platform called Guaana.

UAE Space Agency’s unmanned Mars probe is expected to be launched next year.

In India, the ISRO wants companies such as state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics and conglomerate Larsen & Toubro to build its rockets in future. Last year, India said it expected to spend less than 100 billion rupees (Dh5.14bn) on its first manned space mission to be launched by 2022, suggesting it is likely to be cheaper than similar projects by the US and China.

India's 2014 launch of its own unmanned Mars mission cost $74 million, a fraction of the $671m spent by US space agency Nasa on its Maven Mars mission.

Updated: April 1, 2019 02:12 PM