India’s space program was celebrating an important rocket launch success after a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle carrying five British satellites blasted off from Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikotax, India.
The five satellites together weigh around 1,440 kg. Four are earth-observation sats produced by Surrey Satellite Technology, and the fifth was built by Surrey Space Centre. China’s Twenty First Century Aerospace Technology will lease three of the satellites under a seven-year agreement that helped finance the launch, while two of the sats are technology demonstrators.
Commercial space exploration is a multinational industry with different benchmarks of progress in different countries. For India, the July 10 launch featured the heaviest commercial satellites put into orbit to date by the Indian Space Research Organization.
Over at NASA, the next target involves a return to manned-spacecraft launches by 2017. Boeing has a $4.2 billion contract from NASA to build its new CST-100 manned spacecraft, which would be launched using United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket.
SpaceX’s $2.6 billion NASA contract is for a piloted version of its Dragon cargo capsule to be launched by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.
“This is the heaviest payload for a commercial launch,” ISRO spokesperson Deviprasad Karnik said just prior to the launch. “A successful PSLV-C28 start would give a big boost to ISRO’s commercial launch capabilities.”
NASA acknowledged the success in a web site post that noted the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle has been “the workhorse of India’s space Program,” with 27 successful PSLA launches.
The latest launch was conducted by Antrix Corp., ISRO’s commercial branch.