Skip to main content

India just smashed the record for most satellites launched by a single rocket

India's record breaking rocket blasts off | ISRO | 104 Satellites launch
Launching just one satellite into space is challenging enough, but 100-plus? In one go?

This impressive record-breaking feat was achieved late Tuesday night Eastern Time by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) when a total of 104 satellites were sent skyward aboard the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle from a site about 1,000 miles (1600 kilometers) south of New Delhi.

The launch smashed the previous record for the most satellites sent up on a single rocket, set by Russia in 2014 when it sent 37 into orbit.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi was quick to acknowledge the successful launch, tweeting a message of congratulations and describing it as “another proud moment for our space scientific community and the nation.”

The main payload for the historic launch was the nation’s Cartosat-2 Earth-observation satellite. But the vast majority — 88 to be precise — were “Dove” satellites built by San Francisco-based Earth-imaging company Planet. The remaining 14 are nanosatellites from India, Israel, the UAE, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Kazakhstan.

Robbie Schingler, Planet’s co-founder and chief strategy officer, described the launch as a “major milestone” in the company’s bid to image the whole of Earth’s landmass on a daily basis.

“Tonight is the culmination of a huge effort over the past five years,” Schingler wrote in a post. “In 2011 we set ourselves the audacious mission of imaging the entire Earth land area every day. 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 and 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.”

But before the satellites start sending imagery back to Earth, the company first needs to correctly position each one to guarantee maximum data-gathering efficiency.

Planet’s diminutive Dove satellite can be picked up with one hand and weighs just 10 pounds (about 4.5kg). Each one offers a 200Mbps downlink speed and is capable of collecting over 2 million square kilometers of imagery per day. The company’s clients cover a range of industries, among them defense, mapping, agriculture, and forestry.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
ULA scrubs launch of mighty Delta IV Heavy rocket with seconds to go
how to watch ula launch its awesome delta iv rocket on friday

United Launch Alliance (ULA) was forced to scrub the launch of its powerful Delta IV Heavy rocket with just seconds to go on Wednesday night, September 30.

The emergence of a hardware issue seven seconds before liftoff prevented the NROL44 mission from getting underway. It means the customer, the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), will have to wait a little longer for the deployment of its spy satellite.

Read more
Rocket Lab’s recent launch contained a surprise 2-in-1 satellite
An image taken by the camera aboard the First Light Photon satellite

When Rocket Lab returned to rocket launches last week with its “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Optical” mission, it was not only carrying satellites to be deployed for private customers. Its Electron rocket was also carrying a secret surprise: A part of the rocket which detached to form a Photon satellite designed and built by Rocket Lab itself.

The satellite is formed from the rocket's "kick stage," an additional platform attached to the rocket which detaches after launch and which can be used to deploy satellites into precise orbits. With the customer's satellites deployed, the kick stage itself transitions to a satellite mode, which can complete its own mission.

Read more
Arianespace takes on SpaceX and Rocket Lab in satellite rideshare business
arianespace takes on spacex and rocket lab in satellite rideshare biz launch  sept 2020

In what’s turning out to be an unusually busy period for rocket launches, Arianespace on Wednesday, September 2, launched a Vega rocket carrying 53 microsatellites, nanosatellites, and CubeSats in its debut rideshare mission for lightweight satellites.

The mission got underway at the European Space Agency’s Spaceport in French Guiana on the northeast coast of South America at 6:52 p.m. PT (10:52 p.m. local time).

Read more