An Indian rocket launched a record 10 satellites into orbit in a single mission Monday, underlining the nation's emergence as a major competitor in the multi-billion-dollar space market.
|India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C-9 blasts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota. The Indian rocket launched a record 10 satellites into orbit in a single mission, underlining the nation's emergence as a major competitor in the multi-billion-dollar space market.(AFP/Strdel)|
The PSLV rocket ejected all the satellites within minutes of each other after liftoff at 9:20 a.m. (0350 GMT) in clear weather from the Sriharikota space station in southern India, the Indian Space Research Organisation said.
The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle first put into polar orbit the remote-sensing Indian satellite, Cartosat-2A, fitted with a high-resolution camera and advanced scientific instruments.
It also launched an 83-kilogram (183-pound) Indian mini-satellite and a cluster of eight so-called nano-satellites, each weighing between three kilograms and 16 kilograms, built by research institutions from Europe, Canada and Japan.
The PSLV, the workhorse of India's space programme, blasted off on its 13th flight leaving behind a massive trail of orange and white smoke.
"The mission was perfect," said G. Madhavan Nair, chairman of the Bangalore-based Indian Space Research Organisation, after the launch was telecast live by public broadcaster Doordarshan.
"It is a historic moment for us because it is the first time that we have launched 10 satellites in a single mission," he added, congratulating Indian scientists who broke into applause at the mission control centre.
The flight, which Nair said had not deviated "even a dot" from its specifications, broke the previous record of eight satellites launched at one go by a Russian rocket, according to Indian news reports.
The marketing arm of ISRO, Antrix Corporation, charged a fee for the launch of the miniature foreign satellites.
India, which launched its space programme 45 years ago, wants to compete alongside the United States, Russia, China, the Ukraine and the European Space Agency in offering commercial satellite launch services.
"By launching so many satellites at one go, India has showcased the commercial applicability of its space programme," said Ajay Lele, a space expert at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi.
"It wants to market its launch systems and also its capability in earth imagery," Lele said. "The mission is very significant from a commercial point of view."
India first staked its case for a share of the commercial launch market by sending an Italian spacecraft into orbit in April last year. In January, it launched an Israeli spy satellite in the face of Iranian protests.
The South Asian nation has been offering its services at about 60 to 70 percent of the cost charged by other international space agencies.
India carried out the first successful launch of a domestic satellite by a home-built rocket in 1980, when it was less preoccupied with reaping commercial benefits and more with harnessing space technology to boost deficient communications and broadcasting facilities.
Cartosat-2A, the main satellite launched Monday to an altitude of 630 kilometres (391 miles) above earth, also has a domestic economic dimension and can be used for intelligence gathering as well, officials say.
More advanced than a predecessor launched in January 2007, it will boost India's efforts to reinforce urban and rural infrastructure to keep pace with economic growth that averaged nearly nine percent in the past four years.
The all-weather satellite, whose camera will beam "very clear and detailed images of even miniscule objects" on earth, will aid economic planners in land and water resources management, said space expert Lele.
Monday's mission precedes the planned launch this year of a lunar mission, which will see India join Asian nations Japan and China in moon exploration.