India on Monday morning was on course to achieving another space milestone by launching multiple satellites from one rocket into two different orbits.

Today’s mission is the longest for the polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV-C35) that lifted off from Sriharikota at 9.12am carrying eight satellites — three from India, including the weather satellite SCATSAT-1, three from Algeria, and one each from Canada and the US.

PSLV-C35 minutes before the launch. IMAGE SOURCE
PSLV-C35 minutes before the launch. IMAGE SOURCE

The Prime Minister expressed his joy on the feat over twitter :

The PSLV or 37th Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, carrying three satellites from India, three from Algeria, and one each from Canada and the US, lifted off from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh at 9:12 am.

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Most countries launch satellites in a single orbit and even if multiple satellites are injected, it is in a sequence in the same orbit.

“This is a challenging two-in-one mission which puts India in a unique league of nations having the capability to achieve two different orbits in a single mission,” Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman AS Kiran Kumar.

What makes this mission a challenge is that the PSLV will launch its payloads in two different orbits. The twin-orbit manoeuvre was recently accomplished by European Space Agency’s Vega rocket.

The 371-kg SCATSAT-1, launched within 17 minutes of takeoff, will study oceans and help in weather forecasting, including cyclone detection.

India’s SCATSAT, meant for ocean and weather forecasts, cyclone detection and tracking, has been placed in orbit. India shares such data with the US, which helped them track Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Two of the Indian satellites are student-made.

  • Pratham, a 10-kg satellite developed by students of Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay, will study the electron count in space. The 5.25-kg PISAT made by students of Bengaluru’s PES University will take pictures of earth.
  • Designed to fit within a 30-cm cube, the 10kg Pratham (first in Hindi) will measure total electron count in the ionosphere that can improve the accuracy of the Global Positioning System in India, and also predict tsunamis.
  • Ionosphere is the layer above the earth’s upper atmosphere comprising electrons and electrically charged atoms and molecules stretching from 50km to more than 1,000km.
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The PSLV has launched 39 remote-sensing satellites for Isro, including the Mars mission of 2013-14.

The three Algerian satellites are for earth observation, remote sensing and technology demonstration. The US’ Pathfinder-1 is a commercial high resolution imaging micro satellite while Canada’s NLS-19 is a technology demonstration nano satellite for experimentation in helping to reduce space debris and for tracking commercial aircraft.

Earlier in May, India successfully tested its first reusable satellite launch vehicle that is being seen as the unanimous solution towards achieving low-cost, reliable and on-demand space access.