BANGALORE, India – The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) placed two domestic and eight foreign satellites in orbit April 28 in what the agency said was the most complex mission launched as yet by its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

The mission took place from ISRO’s second launch pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on the east coast of southern India. The rocket flew without its usual six strap-on boosters carrying ISRO’s Cartosat-2A and Indian Mini Satellite-1 satellite, along with eight nanosatellites built by universities and research institutions in Canada and other countries
In a televised announcement immediately following the launch, ISRO Chairman Gopalan Madhavan Nair said the rocket stuck to its path without deviation “and delivered all the 10 satellites in their intended orbit.”

The most satellites the PSLV has launched in any previous mission was four.

It was the PSLV’s 13th flight and the third in the so-called core alone configuration. The total payload mass, at 823 kilograms, was the most carried by the rocket in this configuration.

“The challenge was that the fourth stage of the rocket should eject the 10 satellites in a programmed sequence, each time reorienting itself,” ISRO spokesman S. Satish told Space News. “It is a complex task.”

The primary payload, the 690-kilogram Cartosat-2A, carries a panchromatic camera capable of taking black-and-white pictures with a spatial resolution of 1 meter and a swath width of about 9.6 kilometers, Satish said. The satellite is steerable along its fore and aft axis as well as from side to side to facilitate imaging of any area more frequently, he said.

Cartosat-2A will complement Cartosat-2, launched Jan. 10, 2007, “providing more frequent revisit,” of specific sites of interest, Satish said. He declined to comment on whether the satellite is intended for military use.

The Indian Mini Satellite-1, weighing 83 kilograms, incorporates new technologies and miniaturized subsystems, an ISRO press release said. It carries two optical payloads – a multispectral camera with spatial resolution of 37 meters and a swath of 151 kilometers, and a hyperspectral sensor with 506-meter resolution and 129.5 kilometer
swath width, the release said.

The data from the Mini satellite, formerly named Third World Satellite, will be made available free of cost to developing countries, Satish said.

The nanosatellite launches were arranged by Antrix Corp., ISRO’s commercial arm. The weight of each ranged from
3 kilograms to 16 kilograms for a total weight of about 50 kilograms, the ISRO release said.

Six of the eight nanosatellites are clustered together with the collective name NLS-4. The other two are NLS-5 and Rubin-8. The NLS-4 package, assembled by the University of Toronto, consists of satellites developed by various universities. Two of them – Cute 1.7 and Seeds – were built in Japan. The others, Can-X2, AAUSat-2, Compass-1 and Delphi-C3 were built in Canada, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, respectively. NLS-5 was built by the University of Toronto and Rubin-8 was built by Cosmos International, Germany.

NLS-5, also called Can-X6, carries a ship identification system developed by Com Dev of Cambridge, Ontario. The payload was built and integrated by the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies Space Flight Laboratory under contract to Com Dev, the company said in an April 28 press release. The demonstration is part of Com Dev’s effort to validate a commercial, space-based automatic ship identification system, the company said.

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...