Back in 1975, the India Space Research Organisation (Isro) had launched its first satellite, Aryabhatta, on a Russian rocket. Today, on the 50th anniversary of India's space programme, Isro launched its 100th mission with the space workhorse PSLV from Sriharikota.
The historic journey on a cloudy Sunday morning was cheered on by an august gathering of scientists, special guests of the government, media persons, PM Manmohan Singh and minister of state in PMO V Narayanswamy.On this trip, the PSLV C21 rocket ferried two paying passengers — French Earth observation satellite Spot 6 and Japanese micro-satellite Proiteres — to the polar orbit.
Located 80 km north of Chennai, Sriharikota hosts the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, from where Isro launches its rockets that put satellites into orbit. There, precisely 9.53am, the Rs. 90-crore rocket lifted off with a deafening roar, a thick orange flame powering its upward journey.
Hundreds crowded onto rooftops for a live show. The Prime Minister watched from Isro’s mission control room.
Within seconds, the 230 ton rocket was out of the sight, its movement tracked only through the giant computer screens. The progress of the rocket was relayed over the public address system, the prime minister listened raptly.
"As ISRO's 100th space mission, today's launch is a milestone in our nation's space capabilities," Singh later said, describing the mission as a "spectacular success".
Over the last 37 years, the country has firmly entrenched as a major player in the satellite launching business. In fact, since 1999, ISRO had launched 27 foreign satellites, earning millions. Sunday’s two take the tally up to 29.
“The launch of these satellites on board an Indian launch vehicle is testimony to the commercial competitiveness of the Indian space industry and is a tribute to Indian innovation and ingenuity,” the PM pointed out.
SPOT 6 is the heaviest foreign satellite that ISRO has launched.