On 15th February 2017, 9:28 AM, India made history. While India’s Space Research Organization (ISRO) has always been globally known as being a pioneer in its field, no one was expecting it to achieve the kind of milestone it did last week. Not one, not two, not even ten, the ISRO launched a staggering 104 satellites into space from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota. 104 satellites, and no you are not reading that number incorrectly. Not only is this number huge in and of itself, but it also sets a world record and that too by a huge margin, thereby breaking all previous ones that had been set by Russia and USA. The ISRO choose to use the XL variant (the same one that was used for Chandrayaan and Mangalyan) to launch these satellites that come from seven countries, including three belonging to India.
While it’s astonishing and incredibly remarkable that the ISRO was able to launch 104 satellites in one go, it’s the three Indian satellites that we really should be talking about – the CartoSat-2D, the INS-1A and the INS-1B. Weighing more than 700 Kg’s and fifth in the series of CartoSat-2 remote-sensing satellites, the CartoSat-2D is perhaps the most important satellite that was launched on 15th February, at least from India’s perspective. Its primary job is to capture and send panchromatic and multispectral images of India from space. While initially that might seem like a pretty simple task, its ramifications are pretty significant. All images that will be captured by the CartoSat-2D will be used to monitor coastal land use, as well as for urban and rural planning.
On the other hand, the INS-1A, as the name suggests, is a nanosatellite that weighs a mere 8.4 Kgs, has a lifespan of six months, comes equipped with two science payloads and will primarily be used for research purposes. The two science payloads, in particular, will be used for two primary reasons – a) tracking Single Even Upsets that occur due to high energy radiation in space environment in Commercial, Off-the-Shelf electronic components and b) taking readings of the sunlight reflected off of different targets on the earth’s surface. Finally, there is another nanosatellite, the INS-1B, which weighs 9.7 Kgs, has a lifespan that ranges from 6 months to up to a year and will also come equipped with two science payloads, the Earth Exosphere Lyman Alpha Analyser (EELA) and Origami Camera. While the former will be used to monitor terrestrial exospheric line-of-sight neutral atomic hydrogen Lyman Alpha flux and to give an estimate for the interplanetary hydrogen Lyman Alpha background flux, the later will be used as a remote sensing colour camera that can take high-resolution pictures of the earth.
India was always taken seriously as a nation with its presence in space, but after the success of this mission (which the ISRO has labelled as its PSLV-C37 mission), it’ll internationally be looked at in a different light altogether. Additionally, considering that the primary motive for most of these satellites is to map every corner of the earth in high resolution, important functions such as water distribution, road network monitoring and land use map creation are guaranteed to get a major boost, thereby further helping pace up the speed of development work taking place across the country.
Now it’s not just the scope and scale of PSLV-C37 that makes it so special, the economic efficiency with which it was successfully accomplished is a story in and of itself. Let me give you an example to further elucidate this point. The 1995 Hollywood docudrama Apollo 13 (that depicted the journey behind America’s third Moon landing mission) was made under a budget of $52 million or around Rs. 388 Crores. ISRO’s PSLV-C37 mission, on the other hand, cost less than $15 million or around Rs. 100 Crores. So simply put, the budget of a Hollywood film about launching a shuttle into space was more than ISRO’s mission that actually sent 104 satellites into space.
When India’s populace heavily voted for the BJP and Prime Minister Modi in 2014, they did so on the platform of anti-corruption and development. Now with the resounding success of ISRO’s latest mission, one can safely assume that development has skyrocketed (no pun intended!) under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Modi.
नास॑दासी॒न्नो सदा॑सीत्त॒दानी॒म् नासी॒द्रजो॒ नो व्यो॑मा प॒रो यत्।
किमाव॑रीव॒: कुह॒ कस्य॒ शर्म॒न्नंभ॒: किमा॑सी॒द्गह॑नं गभी॒रम्॥१॥
Neither existence nor nonexistence was there, neither matter nor space around,
What covered it, where it was and who protected? Why, that plasma, all pervading, deep and profound?