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India’s 104-satellite launch sets a record

PSLV launch
India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle lifts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center on the coast of the Bay of Bengal, sending 104 satellites spaceward. (ISRO Photo)

A record-setting flock of 104 satellites was successfully deployed into orbit overnight after the launch of an Indian rocket. Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries played a part in getting nine of those satellites where they needed to go.

India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, or PSLV, lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota at 9:28 a.m. local time today (7:58 p.m. PT Feb. 14).

The mission’s main payload was the Indian Space Research Organization’s Cartosat 2D, a car-sized satellite designed for environmental mapping. Another 88 Dove nanosatellites, each about the size of a toaster oven, will become part of Planet’s Earth-observing constellation.

Eight more nanosatellites were launched for Spire Global, which is filling out a constellation to monitor weather as well as aviation and maritime traffic. This is the second Spire PSLV mission facilitated by Spaceflight Industries, which handles launch logistics.

Spaceflight also arranged to get Israel Aerospace Industries’ BGUSat nanosatellite on the flight. BGUSat is a research spacecraft built by students at Ben Gurion University to perform cloud imaging and measure atmospheric background radiation.

Six more research satellites rounded out the flock, which represented the highest number of satellites launched on a single rocket. ISRO said all 104 satellites were successfully deployed into pole-to-pole orbits within a half-hour after launch.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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