It’s not the number that matters, but preventing ‘traffic mishaps’ in space, for personnel of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) as they prepare to launch a record 103 satellites at one go by February middle.
Imagine a busy street where the trick – regardless of the number of cars, buses and motorbikes – is all about avoiding a collision. ISRO will find itself in a similar situation with the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C-37 (PSLV C-37) mission.
‘’The number of satellites is not the big thing here. The real complexity lies in deciding with precision the actual orientation, angle and time interval of separation of the satellites. None of the satellites should collide with each other during separation in orbit,’’ K Sivan, director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), the nodal agency for ISRO’s launch vehicles, told Express.
The idea, in a nutshell, is to separate the satellites in stages – in different directions and at different relative velocities – to avoid a mishap in space. ‘’For the most part, it will be like any other PSLV mission. No technical changes have been made to the PSLV, for example,’’ said Sivan.
A successful mission means ISRO will set a record for launching so many satellites at one go. The space agency’s personal best is 20 satellites.
Although the launch date is yet to be declared, February 15 has been mentioned as a possible D-day.
Even in payload mass and mission duration, the PSLV C-37 mission will not be a unique one, said Sivan. The total payload mass is about 1,350 kg, which is well within the capability of the PSLV. As for duration, ISRO’s record would still stand with the September 2016 PSLV C-35 mission which put satellites in two separate orbits.
Originally, ISRO had announced an 83 satellite payload for the PSLV C-37 mission. Then the number jumped to 103.