Rocket launch

India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle lifts off successfully from Sriharikota with a record 104 satellites, as seen from Marina Beach, Chennai, Feb. 15, 2017. (IANS photo)

WASHINGTON/LONDON — India has emerged as a "key player" in a growing global commercial market for space-based surveillance and communication, world media commented Feb. 15 after the country scripted history by successfully launching 104 satellites using a single rocket.

ISRO's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV-C37 Feb. 15 injected India's weather observation Cartosat-2 Series satellite and 103 nano satellites, including 96 from the U.S., into orbit after a textbook lift-off from the Sriharikota Space Center.

The launch was "another success for the Indian Space Research Organisation, which is rapidly gaining a reputation globally for its effective yet low-cost missions," The Washington Post said, noting that India has already sent up dozens of satellites, including 20 at once last year.

The New York Times said that by sending a flock of 104 satellites into space within minutes, nearly tripling the previous record for single-day satellite launches, it established India as a "key player" in a growing commercial market for space-based surveillance and communication.

"The launch was high-risk because the satellites, released in rapid-fire fashion every few seconds from a single rocket as it traveled at 17,000 miles an hour, could collide with one another in space if ejected into the wrong path," the paper noted.

"Forget the U.S. versus Russia. The real space race is taking place in Asia," CNN commented.

London's Times newspaper reported that by the feat, India has reinforced its ambition to join the elite space-faring nations.

Many of India's landmark missions have cost far less than their equivalents in Russia, Europe and the U.S. ISRO's Mars mission cost $73 million, compared with Nasa's Maven Mars launch, which came in at $671 million, the British paper pointed out.

UK's Guardian newspaper commented that the record-breaking space launch will help India to cement its place as a serious player in the burgeoning private space market.

"India, which became just the sixth nation to launch its own rocket in 1980, has long made space research a priority. The Indian government has increased the budget for its space program this year and also announced plans to send a mission to Venus," the British paper said.

The BBC, quoting observers, said this latest space success was a "sign that India is emerging as a major player in the multi-billion dollar space market."

"The successful launch is yet another feather in the cap of India's ambitious space program that has earned a reputation of offering a reliable low cost alternative to existing international players," it said.

China's state-run media also took note of India's success in the space sector.

"India created history by successfully launching 104 satellites in a single space mission, breaking the previous record of 37 satellites launched by Russia in 2014,” Xinhua news agency reported.

Noted space scientist G. Madhavan Nair said ISRO’s feat of launching 104 satellites in one go was achieved by proven technology, and the rocket has the capability to launch up to 400 nano spacecrafts.

“This is no new technology. We (ISRO) started with ten satellites (on board a single rocket), then went to 18 or something; then it’s 35. Now it’s 100. If you make 3 or 4 kg satellite, it (PSLV) can take 300 to 400 satellites at a time,” the former ISRO chairman told PTI.

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