Sriharikota, India – India successfully put a record 104 satellites from a single rocket into orbit on Wednesday in the latest triumph for its famously frugal space program.
Celebrations erupted among scientists at the southern spaceport of Sriharikota as the head of India’s Space Research Organization (ISRO) announced all the satellites had been ejected as planned.
“My hearty congratulations to the ISRO team for this success,’’ the agency’s director Kiran Kumar told those gathered in an observatory to track the progress of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).
Prime Minister Narendra Modi immediately congratulated the scientists for the successful launch which smashes a record previously held by Russia.
“This remarkable feat… is yet another proud moment for our space scientific community and the nation,’’ Modi wrote on Twitter.
The rocket took off at 9:28 a.m. (0358 GMT) and cruised at a speed of 27,000 kilometers (16,777 miles) per hour, ejecting all the 104 satellites into orbit in around 30 minutes, according to ISRO.
The rocket’s main cargo was a 714 kilogram (1,574 pounds) satellite for Earth observation but it was also loaded with 103 smaller “nano satellites,” weighing a combined 664 kilograms. The smallest weighed only 1.1 kilogram.
Nearly all of the nano satellites are from other countries, including Israel, Kazakhstan, Switzerland and 96 from the United States.
Around 90 of the satellites are from a San Francisco-based company, Planet, Inc. each weighing around 4.5 kilograms that will send Earth images from space.
Only three satellites belonged to India.
Scientists sat transfixed as they watched the progress of the rocket on monitors until the last payload was ejected, and then began punching the air in triumph and hugging each other. This was PSLV’s 39th successful mission, known as India’s space workhorse. In 2015, it carried 23 satellites to space. The launch means India now holds the record for launching the most satellites in one go, surpassing Russia which launched 39 satellites in a single mission in June 2014.
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