Words: VN Balakrishna

After the Mars Orbiter Mission of 2014 it was déjà vu for Prime Minister Narendra Modi with ISRO creating history by launching 101 foreign satellites of the 104 on February 15 in 600 seconds flat.

In 28 minutes all the 104 satellites were put into Earth’s orbit.


ISRO’s record breaking attempt speaks volumes about Prime Minister’s love affair with space. After winning the 2014 parliamentary elections it was his good luck to witness India maiden triumph of sending an orbiter to Mars.

Soon thereafter the Modi government had given the Department of Space a whopping 23 per cent increase in its budget which augurs more feathers adorning ISRO cap with Mars Orbiter Mission II and Mission to Venus in offing.

ISRO had bested its own record of launching 23 satellites in a single mission in June 2015. Its historic achievement is nonpareil. Even the Russians claim to fame was shattered as the Russian Space Agency could only launch 37 satellites at one go in June 2014.

ISRO’s road to glory was not all rosy as it was beset with worries.

The PSLV-C37 rocket was hurtling in space at whopping 27,000 km per hour or 40 times the speed of an average passenger airliner and the record-setting attempt in launching 101 satellites without collision in 600 seconds was fraught with danger even as it was a mindboggling adventure as something could have gone wrong anywhere any time. Happily nothing was noticed as cause of panic. Obviously this is an art that ISRO had fully mastered from its previous launches which too went flawlessly.

There is another feather in the cap of ISRO when it limited its countdown to 23 hours enviable by ISRO’s own standards. Countdown can go up to 52 hours but having completed its preparations and pre-launch checking in the shortest possible time ISRO was raring to go.

Blasting off the PSLV or the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (primarily used for launching satellites in the low earth or polar orbit) was on its 39th flight.

The time was 9:28 am and sky clear. History cheerfully recorded the successful attempt from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, tiny barrier island in south-east India. .

PSLV-C37/714 kg Cartosat2 Series satellite mission was carrying the primary Cartosat-2 satellite. This was a tremendous mission of ISRO in the annals of space history catapulting 104 satellites into space of which 101 belonged to foreign clients of ISRO.

They comprised six foreign countries Israel, the UAE, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Kazakhstan including the US which wanted 96 of its satellites launched.

Jubilant Modi who was still savoring Mars Orbiter success tweeted his appreciation: “Congratulations to @isro for the successful launch of PSLV-C37 and CARTOSAT satellite together with 103 nano satellites!”


Indeed he had reason to smile from ear to ear. It was not just a record-setting mission as it was made out to be in the media and press. It was more than that as India was further consolidating its technological prowess in space adventure that indeed was part of Make in India initiative relating to urban growth story of India’s Urban Development.

The country was sending unmistakable message to the world that it was now fully capable of taking up any challenging assignments to launch small or big satellites for foreign clients and this could mean more foreign exchange reserves as this market is rapidly growing. India’s workhorse PSLV has once again proved with its record-breaking launch that this it was no trifling matter. India is set to play its well-deserved role and meet the demands of this emerging satellite launch market and this could be a turning point for India to stand tall among the comity of nations.

Interestingly in the historic ISRO attempt there was one small satellite Nayif belonging to the UAE.

It was supposed to have been launched by Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s Falcon 9 rocket which went up in flames in September last aborting the launch.

ISRO tirelessly has been launching both indigenously built and foreign satellites and to its credit had launched 226 satellites including 179 foreign ones so far.

With this launch of INS-1A and INS-1B in the Cartosat series and the Nano satellite bus system which envisages additional science and experimental payloads, India has the wherewithal to accompany bigger satellites on PSLV. This is a new concept of carrying whole lot of satellites, big and small, in one go.

This also means in practical terms more images with high definition resolution that can improve mapping of both urban and rural areas with multitasking efforts made easier to build better road network connectivity and monitoring and maintenance of road networks. The possibilities are endless like judicious water distribution and conservation and improving other land information systems that needs proper co-ordination and timely interventions.

Even before the ink had dried ISRO Chairman was quick off the block saying 77 of the satellites have already started communicating with the earth stations. Interestingly that is another feather in the cap of ISRO.


land information systems that needs proper co-ordination and timely interventions. Even before the ink had dried ISRO Chairman was quick off the block saying 77 of the satellites have already started communicating with the earth stations. Interestingly that is another feather in the cap of ISRO.


Someone once quipped: Women need only three things in life: food, water, and compliments. Compliments certainly they deserve if they are ISRO women who played significant role for all that ISRO stands proud of today. Nearly 20% of ISRO’s task force comprises women who have been contributing their mite from the days of successful Mars Orbiter Mission. Difficult to imagine if ISRO could have done without

them for their hard work and dedication is evident in the successful launch of 104 satellites into space.

Though ISRO works as a team and many women have played a stellar role yet all cannot be named here. A few stand out. The Lucky Seven were part of ISRO’s ongoing efforts and turning it into a household name.

1. Tessy Thomas: Missile woman of India and called ‘Agniputri’ by media she is part of the Agni IV and Agni V mission. She is also credited for making India a member of Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles or ICBM Club.
2. Moumita Dutta: Project Manager Mars Mission. Part of ‘Make in India’ initiative.
3. N Valarmathi: R&D and her role in remote sensing radar imaging satellite, RISAT-1
4. Nandini Harinath: Deputy Director, Mars Orbiter Mission
5. Anuradha TK: Geosat Programme Director
6. Kriti Faujdar: Scientist in Master Control Facility which tracks satellites
7. Minal Sampath: Mars Orbital Mission