ISRO launched a record 104 satellites through its workhorse rocket PSLV-C37 on February 15 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's pet South Asian satellite project will take off in March.


The space agency had earlier planned a launch of 83 satellites in the last week of January, of which 80 were foreign ones. But with the addition of over 20 more foreign satellites, the launch was delayed to February.


The space agency has earned more than USD 100 million by launching foreign satellites. It also has achieved mastery in launching smaller satellites. These 101 satellites are nano-satellites and belong to several foreign nations, including the US and Germany. 


The Indian satellites are from the Castrosat series. The weight of the payload will be 1350 kgs, of which 500-600 kgs will be the satellite's weight.

 

"We want to make optimum use of our capacity. We are launching our three satellites. One is of 730 kgs while other two are 19 kgs each. We had additional space of 600 kgs. So we decided to accommodate 101 satellites," ISRO chairman A S Kiran Kumar said. "Roughly half of our cost will be covered by the foreign satellites we are launching," he said, without revealing the exact amount ISRO will earn from foreign customers. 


The launch is a major feat in country's space history as no exercise on this scale has been attempted before. Last year, ISRO launched 22 satellites at a go and this launch had almost five times that the number of crafts.


Last year, ISRO launched record 20 satellites at one go. The second highest number of satellites launched in a single mission is 37, a record that Russia set in 2014. The US space agency NASA launched 29.

 

India's Moon lander: 

 

Kumar said ISRO is at present doing tests on its lander for Chandrayaan 2 at its facility in Mahendragiri in Tamil Nadu and Challakere in Karnataka.  "It is an indigenous development and tests are on. It's a control descend. So it has engines that allow a control descend," Kumar said. 


Chandryaan 2 mission seeks to make a landing on the moon. Kumar said that the manned mission project is "not a top priority" for the ISRO, as he emphasised on enhancing space infrastructure.

 

SAARC Satellites 


The ISRO said that all SAARC countries, except Pakistan, have given their consent for the South Asian satellites project envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as "India's gift to its neighbors". 


The South Asian satellite will be a part of GSAT-9, which will be launched in March this year, said M Nageshwara Rao, Associate Director of ISRO.


The communication satellite was to be launched in December 2016 but was slightly delayed as some other satellites are to be launched before that. Sources said talks with Afghanistan to have the country onboard for the project is in its final stages.


Envisaged as a gift to its neighbours, the project, earlier known as SAARC satellite, faced stiff resistance from Pakistan. The neighbouring country wanted it to be launched under the aegis of the South Asian regional forum. It later backed out of the project.


Apart from India, the satellite will benefit Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.