With the record launch of 104 satellites on Wednesday morning, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) took its tally of foreign satellites successfully launched to 180.
Of the 104 satellites, just three were ISRO’s while the remaining were from international customers. The space agency hopes to recoup half of the mission’s cost from payments for these foreign launches.
ISRO has emerged as the world’s most successful satellite launching centre, putting more satellites in space from other countries than any other station.
The main payload of the Wednesday Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket was India’s Cartosat 2D, a high-resolution Earth observation satellite, and two nano satellites. Data from India’s Cartosat-2 will help inform land-use maps, water resource mapping and road network monitoring.
Piggybacking on the launch were the remaining 101 foreign satellites from six countries: US, Israel, Switzerland, Netherlands, and new customers UAE and Kazakhstan.
The number of foreign satellites launched by ISRO has increased steadily since it started launching foreign satellites in 1999 through its commercial arm, Antrix Corporation Limited.
In 2016 alone, ISRO launched 22 satellites for other countries.
The US has became ISRO’s biggest client. Though its first payload was only in 2015, ISRO has so far launched 114 satellites for the country. Canada is a distant second with 11 satellites.
On Wednesday’s launch, US once again had the largest payload – 96 of the 101 foreign satellites, of which 88 were from one company, Planet.