As if launching a rocket with some payload wasn’t enough of a gamble, try launching one with hundreds of those payloads. That is exactly the record-breaking feat that the Indian Space Research Organisation or ISRO accomplished. At close to midnight Eastern (10 a.m. local time), the ISRO confirmed that not only did it make a successful launch of a PSLV-37 rocket, it also successfully put 104 satellites into orbit. All from that single launch.
To put it into context, the last time the ISRO sent up multiple satellites in one go, it only maxed at 20. The current record holder is Russia, who, in 2014, put 37 satellites into orbit in just a single launch. Those definitely pale in comparison to the 104 that the ISRO was able to achieve less than 3 years later.
Given those numbers, it’s not hard to imagine why this is a monumental success for space science. The ISRO has proven that you do not need to invent drastically new, and therefore experimental, solutions to accomplish it. You just need to make more room for more “passengers”. It does help that the PSLV, short for Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, used in this mission is the XL kind that can carry up to 1,750 kgs in payload. For this mission, it carried 1,378 kg.
Of the 104 satellites launched, only a few were for India’s use, specifically for capturing hi-res images of the sub-continent’s land mass. Others satellites came from other countries across the world, but the biggest passenger were those from US-based satellite imaging company Planet.
Planet had 88 of its Dove satellites onboard the PSLV-37. Yes, 88 satellites. It was also a record for Planets, being its largest launch to date. It already as 12 such satellites in orbit around earth, which bring its total to 100. This “line scanner” of Dove satellites, in addition to their RapidEye satellites, will enable the company to image the whole world 24/7.