India blasts 104 satellites into orbit aboard one rocket

88 of the CubeSat satellites were “Doves” from US Earth-imaging company Planet Labs


India’s space agency said today it had launched 104 satellites from a single rocket, crushing the previous record of 37 satellites from a single rocket by the Russian space agency in 2014.

The rocket – India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), also known as Cartosat-2 –is a four-stage rocket that India has used for a variety of missions since 1993. This was its 39th flight.

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One major challenge for launching CubeSat involves precisely ejecting them from the space craft at exactly the right time and space to avoid collisions.

The satellites were mostly of the CubeSat variety, weighing mostly under 10lbs and represented myriad countries across the globe – though most – 96 – were from US-based corporations. India, Netherlands, Switzerland, Israel, Kazakhstan and UAE were the others.

Most of the US satellites were from Planet Labs and are known as Doves.

+More on Network World: Planet Labs plans big increase in imaging CubeSat+

Planet wrote some facts of the launch on its web site, including:

  • The 88 Dove satellites (collectively known as “Flock 3p”) rode aboard a PSLV rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India {southern India}
  • This leads to two world records: a record for the most satellites ever launched on a single rocket; and a record for the largest private satellite constellation in history, totaling 149 satellites in all.
  • This is our 15th launch of Dove satellites and second aboard India’s PSLV. The launch of Flock 3p comes off the successful launch of Flock 2p on the PSLV in June 2016
  • After deployment, all 88 satellites will be autonomously commissioned in batches. We expect Flock 3p to enter normal imaging operations in about three months
  • Each of the Flock 3p satellites—our 13th build—sports a 200 mbps downlink speed and is capable of collecting over 2 million km² per day

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