INDIA successfully launched a rocket carrying 20 satellites last Wednesday (22), setting a new national record as its famously frugal space agency looks to grab a larger slice of the lucrative commercial space market.
The rocket blasted off from the southern spaceport of Sriharikota carrying satellites from the US, Germany, Canada and Indonesia, the most in a single Indian mission.
Most of the satellites are intended to observe and measure the earth’s atmosphere, while another aims to provide services for amateur radio operators.
“Each of these small objects that you are putting into space will carry out their own activity, which is independent of the other, and each of them will live a wonderful life for a finite period,” Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman AS Kiran Kumar said.
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.
Among the 20 satellites launched last Wednesday were 13 from the US, including one from a Google-owned company and two from Indian universities.
Prime minister Narendra Modi said the launch was a “monumental accomplishment”, although it trails Russia’s 33 record launched in 2014 and NASA’s haul of 29 the year before.
“Our space programme has time and again shown the transformative potential of science; technology in people’s lives,” Modi tweeted.