India started 2018 by scoring a century in terms of satellites placed in orbit.

The PSLV C40 successfully placed the 100th satellite, Cartosat-2 series, a weather monitoring one, into orbit in a smooth launch from the Satish Dhawan Sriharikota space port on Friday morning. It also launched 29 smaller satellites sequentially during a window of two hours of skilful manoeuvres.

The launch will be a big boost to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It marks a remarkable comeback for the PSLV, after the set-back it suffered on August 31, 2017 when the PSLV C39 mission carrying the first private sector built satellite IRNSS 1H navigation satellite failed. Today’s launch will also go a long way in boosting global customers’ confidence in ISRO.

That we could get 28 micro satellites on board the PSLV C40 and launch them is a clear indication of our capabilities, said a jubilant AS Kiran Kumar, Chairman of ISRO.

The success was also a fitting farewell to Kiran Kumar, under whose stewardship in the past three years the ISRO built a strong reputation with many launches, including the record breaking 104 in one go.

Challenges for new chief

In turn it also sets up a huge challenge to the incoming Chairman K Sivan, Director of the Thiruvananthapuram-based Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, who is expected to take over later this month.

“The launch vehicle technology is complex, tough and challenging. That’s why it’s called risky business. Hence, we need success to build customer confidence and grow business. The present launch has done that,” said Kiran Kumar. Every launch is a fresh test of a range of technology capabilities. PSLV C40 once again proves the mastery of ISRO on many of them. Along with the Cartosat and one more mini satellite of India, the launch vehicle put 28 satellites from six countries into the low earth orbit.

Buoyed by the growing business that Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of ISRO, is attracting for the PSLV, the government recently announced that it will fund the space agency’s efforts to develop an exclusive Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV).

This launcher will cater exclusively to mini and micro satellites. There is growing demand from the private sector, research institutions and universities who want to put small payloads into low orbit for space data.

India offers cost competitive advantage vis a vis Big players like Arianespace, US, Russia, ESA etc. through PSLV.

The SSLV can emerge more lucrative as ISRO can bring down its launch costs and offer better price to customers, instead of the present Piggyback ride on the PSLV, which can then focus on higher payloads.

The present flight carried satellites from US, UK, France, Finland, Korea, Finland and Canada. About 25 are nano satellites and rest are micro types.

The success also sets the tone for the hectic schedule of launches spread over the year. It will also boost the confidence for the upcoming GSLV Mark III Launch. GSLV is key to India’s big leap into the space business and long interplanetary and Moon and Mars missions in future.

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