Single Rocket Launch of 104 Satellites Sets New World Record

EU-funded PEASSS (Piezo Electric Assisted Smart Satellite Structure) project took part in history as India’s space agency (ISRO) mega launch broke Russia’s previous 2014 record.

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ISRO broke the record books on 15 February 2017 when in less than 600 seconds 104 satellites were successfully launched and released into orbit in one go from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota Sriharikota at 9:28 am. This betters the previous record held by Russia by two-and-a-half times, when back in 2014 it transported 37 satellites in one mission using a modified inter-continental ballistic missile.

The mission named ‘PSLV-C37’ used a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) a launch system specifically designed to lift multiple nanosatellites into orbit in a single rocket launch. The mission carried nanosatellites weighing nearly 1 400 kilograms altogether – 6.5 kilograms per nanosatellite – into low earth orbit (LEO) at an sun-synchronous orbital altitude of 505km. This was the 39th flight of the PSLV rocket series.

Of these nanosatellites, 96 belonged to a US space firm named Planet which broke another record of having the biggest private satellite fleet in operation, with a blasting galaxy of 144 satellites. Planet has the ambitious goal of capturing Earth’s surface every single day.

European space observation and in-space activities were also etched into the history books as part of this mission thanks to participation from the PEASSS project based in the Netherlands. The project’s technologies combine ‘smart structures’ such as composite panels, piezoelectric materials and next generation sensors to improve the accuracy and stability of nearly all Earth Observation sensor platforms.

Following on from this successful skyrocketing launch, ISRO now plans more space exploration and aims to visit Venus for the first time as well as sending a second mission to Mars in the 2021-2022 timeframe, according to their latest plans.

With some experts urge more care and sustainability in terms of space junk, Laura Grego, a Senior Scientist from the Global Security Program, Union of Concerned Scientists at Cambridge, USA states that, ‘developing a culture of responsible space launch and operations is key, as more and more countries become space-faring.’

The PEASSS project which ended in May 2016, was a consortium comprising aerospace organisations, university researchers along with small and medium-sized enterprises from the Netherlands, Germany, Israel and Belgium. The project aimed to develop cutting edge technologies such as nanosatellite electronics and next generation sensors to improve accuracies in European space observations and keep Europe on the cutting edge of space research, and potentially reduce the cost and development time for more accurate future sensor platforms including synthetic aperture optics, moving target detection and identification, and compact radars.

The consortium received just under EUR 2 million in EU funding for the project which cost over EUR 2.5 million to finance.

Source: Based on information from CORDIS.