Sriharikota, India: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) made history as it launched its 100th indigenous mission on September 9. The space agency”s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), successfully blasted off into space two foreign satellites from the spaceport of Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.
Hailing the mission as a “spectacular success”, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was present at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota to witness the landmark event, said, “Today”s launch is a milestone in our nation”s space capabilities. The launch of these satellites on board an Indian launch vehicle is testimony to the commercial competitiveness of the Indian space industry and is a tribute to Indian innovation and ingenuity.”
The launch, initially scheduled for 9:51 am was delayed by two minutes as scientists waited for space debris to clear out. In its 22nd launch, the 230-tonne rocket onboard the PSLV, which is as tall as a 15-storey building, was its third fully-commercial launch. The PSLV has an enviable record with just one failure.
“Reaching a hundred is an important milestone like in cricket, but this ISRO”s century is unique as each mission is unique. There have been failures and successes but overall, the future is very bright,” K Kasturirangan, former chief and a member of ISRO, said before the launch.
As part of the mission, 712-kg SPOT-6 remote sensing satellite from France (built by ASTRIUM SAS) and a 15-kg Japanese spacecraft PROITERES would be placed in orbit by ISRO”s PSLV C-21. The launch of the foreign satellites is also indicative of the rapid strides made by ISRO in furthering the nation”s space programme – today”s launch, a purely commercial one, has firmly placed the country in a select club of rocket-makers on which private utilities can bank upon to launch their operational satellites in a cost-effective and reliable manner.
“In this 100th launch, there is a reversal of roles where an Indian launcher is carrying a French satellite,” Francois Richier, French Ambassador to India, said on the major milestone.
India, indeed, has come a long way since it launched its first satellite, Aryabhatta, on April 19 1975. So far, the government has spent around USD 12 billion on ISRO, a miniscule amount compared to the US” National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) which has an annual budget of USD 17 billion. Despite that, the space agency has, to its credit, some major achievements.
So far, ISRO has launched 63 Indian-made satellites and 36 indigenous rockets. The country”s first unmanned moon mission in October 2008, Chandrayaan-1, was a huge success. The space agency has also pioneered satellite television in the country and also catalysed the telecom boom. “Almost every family in India has benefitted from one or the other spin offs from the space agency, touching lives and adding value to the aam admi has been the hallmark of the Indian space programme,” K Radhakrishnan, Chairman of ISRO, told NDTV.