BANGALORE, India — India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) successfully launched the Indo-French Saral environmental satellite and six smaller satellites into orbit Feb. 25.

The launch took place at 6:01 p.m. local time from Satish Dhawan Space Centre on Sriharikota Island near India’s southeastern coast.

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee — who witnessed the launch — congratulated scientists of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), describing the launch as an “epitome of Indo-France cooperation in space.”

Eighteen minutes into the flight, the satellites were injected into a sun-synchronous orbit with an altitude of roughly 800 kilometers and an inclination of 98.55 degrees off the equator.

The 409-kilogram Saral satellite, a joint mission of ISRO and the French space agency, CNES, is equipped with an altimeter and other payloads designed to spend the next three to five years studying sea-surface height and collecting data from instrumented ocean buoys and other platforms. The satellite was built by ISRO. CNES contributed the scientific payloads.

The six smaller satellites, weighing a combined 260 kilograms, include:

  • Sapphire, a 148-kilogram electro-optical satellite built by MDA Corp. of Richmond, British Columbia, for the Canadian military to track objects in high Earth orbits as part of Canada’s contribution to the U.S. Space Surveillance Network.

  • NEOSSat, a 65-kilogram space telescope built for the Canadian Space Agency by Microsat Systems Canada Inc. of Mississauga, Ontario, to track asteroids.

  • UniBrite and Brite, a pair of 14-kilogram satellites built by the University of Vienna and the Austrian space agency to measure low-level oscillations and temperature variants in stars brighter than visual magnitude 3.5.

  • STRAND-1, a 4.3-kilogram smartphone-based cubesat built as a training and technology demonstration exercise by the U.K.’s University of Surrey and Surrey Satellite Systems Ltd.

  • AAUSat-3, a 3-kilogram student-developed nanosatellite from Denmark’s Aalborg University to test a payload built to receive automatic identification signals from ships in the arctic.

Based in Bangalore, Killugudi S. Jayaraman holds a doctorate in nuclear physics from the University of Maryland and a master's degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He was formerly science editor of the...