By Victor Ernest
India’s space agency has successfully launched 104 satellites from a single rocket – a feat that will cement the country’s space after its successful Mars orbiter mission.
According to CNN, the launch has almost tripled the current record of 37 satellites Russia sent into orbit in 2014.
India’s Mangalyaan probe -Asia’s first successful Mars orbiter- forced the world to take note of India’s space program, which was set up in 1962.
To date, India has launched 79 satellites from 21 countries, including satellites from big companies like Google and Airbus, earning India at least $157 million, according to government figures.
In 2016, it launched 20 satellites in one go but Wednesday’s launch was a far bigger challenge.
The rocket’s payload includes three Indian satellites and 101 foreign satellites from six countries -US, Kazakhstan, Israel, Netherlands, Switzerland and UAE- according to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
Former director of the ISRO Satellite Center in Bangalore and the author of a new book on India’s space program, Ramabhadran Aravamudan said, “The main technology involved is to launch them in a sequence so they don’t interfere with each other and go into separate orbits.”
Aravamudan says this is largely down to cheaper labour costs and a state-led model that doesn’t involve “industries with their own profit margins.”
For example, highly-skilled aerospace engineers in India might receive a salary of $1,000 per month, a fraction of what they could earn in Europe or the US, he said.
“However, India will remain a “modest player” globally unless it can start sending heavier satellites into orbit,” he added.
In the first half of 2018, India plans to launch its second lunar mission after becoming the fourth country to plant its flag on the moon in 2008.