ISRO Launches 104 Satellites at Once; Planet Can Now Image Entire Planet

PSLV C37 lifts off with 104 satellites. (Credit: ISRO)

India launched 104 spacecraft on one rocket on Wednesday, setting a new record for a single launch and greatly boosting the capability of Planet (formerly Planet Labs) to image Earth.

The PSLV booster lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at 9:28 IST. After reaching sun synchronous orbit nearly 16 minutes later, the rocket’s fourth stage preceded to deploy the primary payload, India’s CartoSat-2 imaging satellite, and 103 secondary payloads.

Planet had 88 Dove CubeSats among the secondary payloads. The San Francisco company will use the spacecraft to image the entire world on a daily basis.

“Today Planet successfully launched 88 Dove satellites to orbit—the largest satellite constellation ever to reach orbit,” co-founders Robbie Shingler and Will Marshall wrote on Planet’s website. “This is not just a launch (or a world record, for that matter!); for our team this is a major milestone. With these satellites in orbit, Planet will reach its Mission 1: the ability to image all of Earth’s landmass every day.

” In 2011 we set ourselves the audacious mission of imaging the entire Earth land area every day.,” they added. “We were convinced that armed with such data, humanity would be able to have a significant positive impact on many of the world’s greatest challenges. We calculated that it would take between 100-150 satellites to achieve this, and we started building them. After today’s launch, Planet operates 144 satellites in orbit. We have reached our milestone.”

There was celebrating in India over the new world record, which is seen as a sign of that country’s surging space effort. In addition to successful launches, ISRO has placed spacecraft into orbit around the moon and Mars over the past decade.

“Of the 103 co-passenger satellites carried by PSLV-C37, two – ISRO Nano Satellite-1 (INS-1) weighing 8.4 kg and INS-2 weighing 9.7 kg – are technology demonstration satellites from India,” the space agency said in a press release. “The remaining 101 co-passenger satellites carried were international customer satellites from USA (96), The Netherlands (1), Switzerland (1), Israel (1), Kazakhstan (1) and UAE (1).

“With today’s successful launch, the total number of customer satellites from abroad launched by India’s workhorse launch vehicle PSLV has reached 180,” the press release states.