A record-setting flock of 104 satellites was successfully deployed into orbit overnight after the launch of an Indian rocket. Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries played a part in getting nine of those satellites where they needed to go.
India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, or PSLV, lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota at 9:28 a.m. local time today (7:58 p.m. PT Tuesday).
The mission’s main payload was the Indian Space Research Organization’s Cartosat 2D, a car-sized satellite designed for environmental mapping. Another 88 Dove nanosatellites, each about the size of a toaster oven, will become part of Planet’s Earth-observing constellation.
Eight more nanosatellites were launched for Spire Global, which is filling out a constellation to monitor weather as well as aviation and maritime traffic. This is the second Spire PSLV mission facilitated by Spaceflight Industries, which handles launch logistics.
Spaceflight also arranged to get Israel Aerospace Industries’ BGUSat nanosatellite on the flight. BGUSat is a research spacecraft built by students at Ben Gurion University to perform cloud imaging and measure atmospheric background radiation.
Six more research satellites rounded out the flock, which represented the highest number of satellites launched on a single rocket. ISRO said all 104 satellites were successfully deployed into pole-to-pole orbits within a half-hour after launch.
The mission marked a numerical milestone for Spaceflight Industries as well as for India’s space effort.
“We’ve hit (and passed) the 100-satellite milestone,” Spaceflight said in a pre-launch blog posting. “With this launch, we’ve sent 103 satellites to space since our first one in 2013. The team at Spaceflight is proud of this achievement, and to be part of enabling the growth of commercial enterprises and new science missions in space.”
In addition to launch logistics, Spaceflight is building its own spacecraft for its BlackSky Earth-observing constellation. Its first BlackSky Pathfinder satellite was launched on a PSLV rocket last September, and the second Pathfinder is due to be sent into orbit later this year.
Eventually, Spaceflight’s BlackSky subsidiary aims to have 60 satellites sending down on-demand imagery from low Earth orbit.