9:24am on Monday was a proud moment. By now the country has become accustomed to hearing success stories of its space scientists. The launch of 10 satellites using the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV C-9, however, marks the mastery of another complex step.
The launching of the 10 satellites, one after another, from the final stage of the PSLV required complex manoeuvring to prevent the satellites from colliding with each other. The Indian Space Research Organization (Isro) has launched multiple satellites on earlier occasions, but never so many in a single mission. Of the 10 satellites,?two—Cartosat-2A and Indian Mini Satellite 1 — belong to India and are remote-sensing devices. The other eight were for foreign customers.
With this launch, the 13th in the PSLV series, Isro has demonstrated its commercial viability. PSLV can launch payloads in the 600-1,200kg range in stand-alone/primary configuration and 50-200kg microsatellites in the kind of configuration as in today’s launch. The latter mode is important from a commercial point of view. So far, Isro has launched satellites for Belgium, South Korea, Italy, Germany and other countries.
At the moment, India is at the low end of commercial space services. This market has significant entry barriers, not all of them commercial. It’s controlled by the Europeans, the Americans and the Russians. India and China are late entrants to this competition.
Like all late industrializers, to borrow terminology from another context, they have successfully adapted technologies and solutions developed by the pioneers. What India needs to do now is scale up what it has. Multiple satellite launches from a single vehicle have the potential to reduce costs significantly.
The country has a proven record in sending objects into polar orbits. These are mainly remote-sensing and weather applications-based satellites. Greater commercial depth will require geosynchronous orbit placement ability. Satellites in such orbits appear stationary to observers at a particular location on earth and big cover telecommunication satellites mostly fall in this category. This is where the money is.
For this, the glitches and problems in the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle need to be removed, fast.
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