India puts 29 satellites into three orbits in one launch

NEW DELHI • An Indian rocket yesterday placed domestic and foreign satellites in three different orbits on a single launch, 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 yesterday's launch, in addition to India's Emisat satellite.

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

"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 Chandrayaan-2.

Among the satellites in yesterday's launch were 20 earth-imaging satellites of Planet Labs, a private satellite operator based in San Francisco. Two of the satellites, one from Lithuania and the other from Switzerland, will be used for the "Internet of Things", or connecting physical devices to the Web.

India's Emisat satellite being launched yesterday. The Indian Space Research Organisation said the "three-in-one" launch would help cut costs, and it aims to complete 30 more missions this year.
India's Emisat satellite being launched yesterday. The Indian Space Research Organisation said the "three-in-one" launch would help cut costs, and it aims to complete 30 more missions this year. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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.

Isro wants companies such as state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics and Mumbai-based conglomerate Larsen & Toubro to build its rockets in future.

Last year, India said it expected to spend less than 100 billion rupees (S$1.95 billion) 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 an unmanned Mars mission cost US$74 million (S$100 million), just a fraction of the US$671 million spent by US space agency Nasa on its Maven Mars mission.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 02, 2019, with the headline 'India puts 29 satellites into three orbits in one launch'. Print Edition | Subscribe