India, satellites, space

India’s space program reached a new milestone on Wednesday when the ISRO launched 20 satellites into orbit from a single rocket, carrying payloads from 17 other countries including the US, Canada, Germany, and Indonesia.

The highly anticipated launch included India’s own observation satellite, the Cartosat-2 Series. The craft took off from the southern spaceport of Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh at 9:26 a.m. local time, placing the 20 satellites into a polar sun-synchronous orbit after 26 minutes.

India Makes Space Science History

The mission was the largest in India’s history, although Russia still holds the record for sending 37 satellites into space in one go in 2014. Most of the satellites have a different mandate, but will primarily be tasked with observing the Earth’s atmosphere and providing service for amateur radio operators.

“Each of these small objects that you are putting into space will carry out their own activity, which is independent of the other, and each of them will live a wonderful life for a finite period,” ISRO chairman AS Kiran Kumar told NDTV.

The landmark launch received high praise from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Our space program has time and again shown the transformative potential of science & technology in people’s lives,” Modi tweeted. “Over the years we developed expertise & capability to help other nations in their space initiatives. This is the skill of our scientists.”

Wednesday’s launch follows a series of successful ISRO missions. India became the first country to enter Mars’ orbit on a maiden venture in 2014 with a probe costing just $74 million, a comparatively small price tag for spacecraft. The country’s space agency has launched 57 foreign satellites since 1999, and charges only 60% of the fees asked by other international agencies.

The Indian Space Research Organization was launched in 1969 with the stated mission of pursuing space science research and planetary exploration. The agency operates at a much lower cost than larger space organizations such as NASA or Europe’s ESA.