The fact that most companies in USA are outsourcing their work to developing economies is no big news. What is BIG news though, is that today (15th February, 2017), Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) successfully launched 104 satellites in space from seven countries, using just one rocket – a world record!
In this historic launch, ISRO used their homegrown rocket called Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). Along with their own satellites, Cartosat-2 and two other nano satellites, the PSLV also carried 101 other co-passenger satellites from 6 different countries – USA, Israel, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Arab Emirates.
Cartosat-2 alone weighed 714 kg/1574 lbs and the cumulative weight of the other satellites was 663 kg/1463 lbs. The rocket first deployed India’s own satellites into the orbit, and then went on to deploy all other 101 satellites one-by-one into orbit. Following is a list:
- 1 of Cartosat-2 Series Satellite and 2 of nano satellites for ISRO, India
- 88 of Dove Satellites for Planet Labs, San Francisco, USA
- 8 of LEMUR Satellites for Spire Global Inc, San Francisco, USA
- 1 of BGUSat for Ben Gurion University, Israel
- 1 of Al-Farabi-1 for Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, Kazakhstan
- 1 of PEASSS (Piezo Electric Assisted Smart Satellite Structure) Satellite for a project by European Union
- 1 of Dido2 satellite for Switzerland & Israel-based companies
- 1 of Nayif 1 satellite for Dubai-based Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST), in partnership with American University of Sharjah (AUS)
Mathieu J Weiss, a liaison officer for France’s CNES national space agency, told AFP that “It’s a great technical challenge to launch so many satellites at once into orbit on the right trajectory so that they don’t make contact with each other.” Weiss said India has become a major player in the space race by making itself so competitive with its low costs and by working with private companies, which are space specialists.
What Will These Nano Satellites Do?
Well, for starters, these are mostly Earth-imaging satellites. These images have many applications in meteorology, oceanography, fishing, agriculture, biodiversity conservation, forestry, landscape, geology, cartography, regional planning, education, intelligence, and warfare.
There will be massive amount of imagery and data sent continually back to Earth by these satellites. As a result, there will also be a need to invent and innovate downstream technologies to capture, analyze, and present this data. The software industry can and will benefit greatly from such new kinds of system engineering projects around these newer technologies. It may change the way businesses operate, manage, and deliver.
The World Space Race is Heating Up
Today, India beat the record held by Russia, which in 2014 catapulted 37 satellites in a single launch, using a modified inter-continental ballistic missile. In June 2016, India set a national record after it successfully launched a rocket carrying 20 satellites, including 13 from USA.
India’s successful launches in the past few years have cast a shadow on the bygone era of space race between USA and Russia. What certainly is a successful collaborative launch, ISRO’s PSLV is going to raise the bar for space programs of the world.
ISRO has an impressive success rate in space programs as it hasn’t failed even once, since 2010. The XL version of the PSLV that was used on February 15th for the satellite launch is said to have a 100% success rate. It had been used earlier in India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), prior to its debut in India’s first attempt to reach the Moon (Chandrayan-I) in 2008.
A Small Penny for Man, A Giant Investment for Mankind
India hopes to become a major player in the multibillion-dollar space launch market with its incredible acumen of professionals in the space of IT, telecommunications, low-cost manufacturing, and other innovative methods on cost saving.
India’s space budget is merely at 0.06% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as compared to Russia (0.25%) and USA (0.23%). The Indian government is pleased with ISRO’s progress, and in the recently announced annual budget (2017-18), it gave the space agency a 23% hike.
ISRO’s Mars mission is the cheapest so far and it reached its destination in its maiden attempt. The unmanned rocket to orbit Mars in 2013 costed just $73 million, compared with NASA’s “Maven Mars” mission, which costed $671 million. In fact, in 2014, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi quipped that an ISRO rocket that launched four foreign satellites into orbit cost less than it did to make the Hollywood film, “Gravity”.
Space expert, Pallava Bagla, who writes for science magazines, said that the launch paves the way for India to embark on low-cost space missions. He said that USA and some other countries have abandoned the use of winged reusable spacecraft, but India hopes to bring down the cost of access to space by 90% by using reusable vehicles. The concept of reusable rockets is also being pursued by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
So What Does the Future Hold?
India’s famously frugal ISRO hopes to set an enviable benchmark for space fairing nations. ISRO is mulling the idea of missions to Jupiter and Venus. The second mission to Mars is tentatively slated for in 2021-2022 timeframe, and as per existing plans, it may well involve putting a robot on the surface of the Red Planet.
Putting commercial satellites into space for a fee is a growing business sector for organizations seeking greater, high-tech communication systems. Maybe, it’s even safe to say that the ‘cloud just became the universe’.
As the future belongs to us all, it’s important that countries work together to safeguard the human race and take it further. India’s historical attempt is an indication of what nations can achieve together.
It’s time your business too looked at places where real and affordable capabilities lie. This could be in terms of infrastructure or even tapping into the best minds across the globe. Keeping this in mind, let’s explore newer markets, but don’t go by hear-say, go by facts and events.
Proud moment for the whole world!