India to launch 104 satellites in single space mission
India hopes to make history by launching a record 104 satellites from a single rocket Wednesday as its famously frugal space agency looks to zoom ahead in the commercial space race, Channel Asia News reports.
The rocket is set to blast off from the southern spaceport of Sriharikota, India's Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said in a statement on Tuesday (Feb 14).
The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle would be carrying a 714kg main satellite for earth observation and 103 smaller "nano satellites" which would weigh a combined 664kg.
Nearly all of the nano satellites are from other countries, including Israel, Kazakhstan, The Netherlands, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and 96 from United States, said the state-run ISRO.
If successful, India will set a world record as the first country to launch the most satellites in one go, surpassing Russia which launched 39 satellites in a single mission in June 2014.
The business of putting commercial satellites into space for a fee is growing as phone, Internet and other companies, as well as countries, seek greater and more high-tech communications.
India is competing with other international players for a greater share of that launch market, and is known for its low-cost space programme.
Last June, India set a national record after it successfully launched a rocket carrying 20 satellites, including 13 from the US.
It sent an unmanned rocket to orbit Mars in 2013 at a cost of just US$73 million, compared with NASA's Maven Mars mission which had a US$671 million price tag.
ISRO is also mulling the idea of missions to Jupiter and Venus.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has often hailed India's budget space technology, quipping in 2014 that a rocket that launched four foreign satellites into orbit had cost less to make than Hollywood film "Gravity".