India Sends 20 Satellites on One Rocket Heating up Space Race

As India touts its low cost space program to lure customers frustrated by a global backlog, the South Asian country successfully launched 20 satellites on a single rocket in a display of its technological capabilities in space aviation.

All of the satellites were injected into their orbits about half an hour after all of them, stacked on to one single rocket, were fired away from the barrier island of Sriharikota along India’s southeastern coast on Wednesday morning. The 20 satellites included some from the U.S. and Canada and two satellites by two educational institutions from India.

The success of the launch was announced by A.S. Kiran Kumar, the chairman of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), the government owned premier space research organization in the country, through a television telecast. The Indian space agency said that most of the satellites that were successfully injected into the Earth’s orbit will observe and measure the Earth’s atmosphere.

The nation’s space program has “time and again shown the transformative potential of science and technology in people’s lives,” said the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in comments posted on his Twitter account while he lauded the scientists who were behind the successful launch.

As phone companies, Internet providers, airlines and even carmakers seek bandwidth for communications, there has been a rush to send satellites to space and this has brought a surge in the business of putting satellites into space. By testing reusable rockets to help reduce costs, billionaires including Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are practically privatizing what was once a government-only industry as the space slowly becomes the new frontier for those billionaires.

ISRO said that the 20 satellites included one from an Indian university designed to provide services for amateur radio operators and another is an Earth observation device to capture light invisible to the naked eye.

Trailing Russia’s 33 in 2014 and NASA’s 29 the year before, this is the biggest single launch by India. Noting nearly a double of the number of satellites launched in 2013, there were 208 satellites launched in 2014.

India sent its first satellite in 1975 after it had managed to launch the first rocket to space in 1963. The possibility of water formations of moon occurring were shoed by an unmanned mission to the moon that ended in 2009. After an almost yearlong voyage, India’s Mars probe beat China to the red planet. In fact the ISRO has been credited with successfully completing the cheapest successful space voyage to Mars and entered into the elite club of countries to have been able to successfully do so. The $74 million Mars mission by Mangalyan, India’s Mars craft, cost just about 11 percent of the cost of the U.S.’s Maven probe and the mission was successfully accomplished in 2014 by the injecting of a probe into Mar’s atmosphere.

In a development that may heat up the race to make access to space cheaper and easier, last month ISRO successfully launched a scale model of a reusable spacecraft.

(Adapted Bloomberg)

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