An early morning lift-off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota, in South-East India saw a PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) launch in its “XL” configuration carry 20 satellites into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The launch occurred at 0356 GMT (0926 local time). This was the 36th launch of a PSLV rocket, the 14th in the “XL” configuration, and the fourth so far this year.
The total payload mass for all 20 satellites was 1288 kg, of which 727.5 kg was taken up by the primary payload Cartosat-2C. This was the fourth in a series of high-resolution Earth-observation spacecraft utilised for a variety of applications from civil cartography and infrastructure management to military reconnaissance. Other domestic payloads consisted of two nanosatellites supplied by academic institutions with the involvement of students: Sathyamasat from Sathyabama University, Chennai and Swayam from College of Engineering, Pune.
International customers provided the 17 other satellites, 13 of which were 12 “Dove” satellites designated Flock-2P (1-12) from the US firm Planet Labs. The flight marked the first time Doves have flown on a PSLV. Skysat C1 was a first next-generation imaging satellite from Terra Bella, California.
Other customers consisted of the Canada Government, with two satellites; GHGSAT-D and M3MSAT, M3MSAT was initially to have flown on a Dnepr rocket in 2014 however it was pulled from the launch after the Russian annexation of Crimea.
Germany provided the Biros minisatellite, which will work with the existing TET spacecraft on the DLR FireBird mission. Additionally Biros will later deploy a sub-satellite Beesat-4, a 1U cubesat, to demonstrate autonomous rendezvous techniques. The final satellite is the Lapan-A3 microsatellite from Indonesia with multiple Earth observation and maritime tracking applications.
During the post-launch press-conference ISRO officials challenged Indian industry to increase the rate of PSLV booster production in order to raise the launch potential from six to eight flights a year. In the next few months another PSLV launch is expected to carry the Resoursat-2A spacecraft into orbit. Additionally a GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle) is scheduled to lift the Insat-3DR meteorological satellite.
The integrated launch services provider, Spaceflight Industries, arranged for the Flock satellites to be included on the PSLV launch. This not the first time Planet Labs have contracted Spaceflight’s services. A previous Dnepr launch carrying 11 Flock units was arranged by the company. Spaceflight is planning an ambitious launch of 89 small satellites, by a SpaceX Falcon 9, later this year, utilising their SHERPA tug to transport and deploy the payloads.